It's a fairly well understood rule that when you're in contractual dispute with a supplier or contractor it's not best done to accept lavish hospitality from them. BT have secured a £30m a year contract with Suffolk Council and are currently, as big outsourcing firms do, squeezing more yield from the poor dupes at County Hall. To keep the client sweet, they flew Chief Executive Andrea 'colonic irrigation' Hill on a freebie joytrip to the States. Then she went on another one. In fact she spent two weeks in the US at BT's expense; it turns out that she's made quite a habit of accepting hospitality from BT, declaring another dozen dinners, hotel stopovers and corporate jollies at which well-trained BT minders no doubt flattered and shmoozed the enema queen. The Mail has the story.
When I knew Suffolk Council many years ago, its officers were a sober and scrimping lot, heirs to those who took the county to Parliament's side during the civil war. The county has more than its share of dissenters' and non-conformist chapels and there's something almost Puritan embedded in the people. Those who spent the Rates did so with cheese-paring care, turning each penny over twice before tendering it, as they say there. Even in the 1980s when London councils were rainbow militant, Suffolk carried on in cream-gloss painted offices with linoleum-topped oak desks that had served them since the 1930s. All that was swept away by the likes of Andrea Hill and Labour's culture of Managerialism, or the New Public Management, driven by the disgraced and discredited Audit Commission, a colossal failure that has seen extravagant new glass and steel office blocks as councils transformed into little more than local offices of the central State. Mediocrity was rewarded, dependence on Prescott's ODPM and its successor the DCLG encouraged. New feudal castles, this time office towers built by KPMG, PwC and the Audit Commission's other best buddies sprang up in our towns and cities, and the corporate giants - Crapita, Serco, G4, BT and the rest - squeezed their ample arses into the council's chairs.
Andrea Hill and her like are no more than Satraps, a tier of excessively rewarded and pampered chief officers maintained to preserve the fiction that councils are self-governing. Suffolk has seen an exodus of old-school officers, deeply rooted in the county, who have left taking with them collective centuries of experience and leaving in place a talentless, mediocre self-regarding cabal of sycophants and placemen ready to hand the county and its people over to big business. With them comes a culture of sleaze, corruption, avarice and conspicuous wealth. But they should take care, at least in Suffolk.