Monday, 4 October 2010

Scotland's Clubbers

Back in March I wrote that John Swinney had won the power to carry out further pruning of quangos without the need for primary legislation.  As yet I haven't heard of any being dissolved although a few have amalgamated; reducing the number but not necessarily the cost.

John Swinney called for 'maximum value for taxpayers' money' yet public sector bodies are spending hundreds of thousands of pounds every year on becoming members of institutes, societies and networking organisations.

The second largest 'clubber' is Scottish Enterprise which as spent £869,062 on joining organisations since 2007.  Its senior managers spent £81,049 to join the Corporate Leadership Council, £69,443 to CBI Scotland and £1750 to the free-market David Hume Institute.  Another £107,000 was found for the Scottish Council for Development and Industry and £3870 spent joining the Nuclear Industry Association in the last two years, despite the Scottish government's anti-nuclear stance.

SEPA sent £646 on a corporate membership for its chief executive at 29 - a private members' club in Glasgow.  "Although SEPA no longer pays for a corporate membership of 29, its use provides a venue in the heart of the city of Glasgow where we can meet to discuss things such as environmental priorities and opportunities from the green economy," said a spokesperson. SEPA has offices in East Kilbride, Glasgow, Balloch and Ayr.  Surely they could accommodate those who want to have meetings in the west.

The largest 'clubber' is Scottish Water.  Our very own utility spent around £1 million in three years on corporate memberships.  These included £15,321 to the Freight Transport Association, £6969 to Oxera Water, £33,097 to WRAS Ltd (why that is needed baffles me), £24,000 went in fees to SCDI, £30,000 to the Institute of Customer Service and £1250 to Scottish Business in the Community.

The total cost of Scottish Natural Heritage's membership of 90 organisations is not declared.  Grampian Fire and Rescue paid £4500 to join gay rights group Stonewall.

Derek Brownlee, Scottish Tories’ finance spokesman, said: “There is no case for spending money on joining a private members’ club. Unless an organisation directly relates to the functions of a public body, I don’t think corporate memberships are a good idea.”

I'd go even further and say no quango or public organisation should be spending taxpayers' money on corporate or private memberships. If advice is required formally request a quotation and pay the bill.  Let's put an end to these old-boys networks.



Alex Porter said...

Excellent work Rosie.

Gorging at the public's expense is systemic. From global merchant banks to council chambers, it´s a plague.

RMcGeddon said...

There are also the Common Purpose courses SR. They cost taxpayers millions. Each course is about £3K per person and has no relevance to the participants job. It's a club for the selected few to learn how to control us when it all goes pear shaped. Here are some participants for Mid Scotland last year...

Below is a list of some of the organisations signed up for TheKNOW. We are still accepting applications at this time:

• Glasgow City Council • Strathclyde Partnership for Transport • Glasgow Centre for Inclusive Living • BBC Scotland • Clydesdale Bank/NAB • SECC • The Science Centre • Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Enterprise Lanarkshire & Scottish Enterprise Renfrewshire • Bank of Scotland • Glasgow Simon Community • NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde • RNID • Glasgow West Regeneration • The Wise Group • Strathclyde Police • PSYBT • Citizens Theatre • activity mix • Dunyvis • Royal Bank of Scotland • Oceanic Consultancy • Glasgow Housing Association

subrosa said...

It is a plague and nobody in government is interested in stopping it Alex.

subrosa said...

Now there's something which does rile me RM - Common Purpose courses. Thanks for listing a few of the participants. You can tell when they've been on this course because their 'speak' changes.

The SEPA person above has been on one. Nothing they say makes any sense.

Demetrius said...

Arthur Askey said it all. Bigger fleas have littler fleas, on their backs to bite 'em. Littler fleas have littler fleas, and so on ad finitum. In the end we are the ones who finish up with the most bites.

subrosa said...

But we can do something about it if enough of us protest Demetrius. That's the problem. We're just happy to sit back and let ourselves be fleeced.

hatfield girl said...

That is a fascinating post, SR. I was aware of the tax-payer subsidising of junkets across the world but hadn't realised we are paying their subscription networking costs as well.

We're reverting to a feudal society - high consumption via status and patronage.

subrosa said...

It would be interesting if the big English quangos were investigated like this HG.

We are indeed. It becomes more noticeable every day.

Dramfineday said...

Well if the membership is going to DIRECTLY improve the knowledge, operation and value of the business I would argue it should be allowed. For example as a (former) Operations manager I have a membersship of the Institute of Operations Management, which I pay for myself and claim an allowance against tax, to get regular updates on the world of operations. Corporate memberships, I'm not convinced about.

Joe Public said...

Alex Porter @ 09:15 said...

"Gorging at the public's expense is systemic. From global merchant banks ...."

Please provide an example of a 'global merchant bank' gorging at the public's expense.

subrosa said...

As I said earlier Dram, if an organisation's assistance is necessary then advice can be requested formally and issued along with an invoice for same. That leaves no doubt. In my careers I too have been a member of various organisations. All paid for by me and, like you, claimed against tax. The organisations I belonged to (I still belong to one) did not accept corporate memberships.

RMcGeddon said...

Joe said..

" Please provide an example of a 'global merchant bank' gorging at the public's expense."

Off the top of my head..


Joe Public said...

That's my point RMcG.

Alex Porter made a snide comment about Merchant Banks 'gorging at the public's expense.'

Barings was effectively a private bank, and collapsed but caused no public expense.

RBS & HBOS caused public expense, but were not Merchant Banks.

subrosa said...

Joe, I'm sure Alex would accept your analysis.

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