Well, it's all kicking off down here in sunny Suffolk. This week the Daily Mail published a little more detail about a story we commented on some weeks ago, the couple who had their baby seized by Suffolk Social Services because the father, allegedly, was a liar. Suffolk MP Tim Yeo raised the matter in a very forthright manner in the House of Commons, although there were very few MPs present to hear him. All too busy totting up their expenses, probably.
The couple fled to Spain just before Christmas to prevent their next child, then unborn, being seized as well. The baby has now been born safely at Torrevieja Hospital on the Costa Blanca. Their first child, a daughter, is now 18 months old. She was removed from their care at 11 weeks and put up for adoption because they were declared unfit parents. MP Tim Yeo said there was no justification for the intervention and said Suffolk Social Services were 'child kidnappers' when he used parliamentary privilege last November to accuse them of 'actively seeking opportunities to remove babies from their mothers'.
He described how social workers began monitoring the couple after the birth of their daughter, referred to as Poppy, in August 2008. They waited until the lorry-driver father was out at work one day 11 weeks later to swoop on the couple's home with police and 'snatch the baby from the arms of her mother'. In the ensuing legal battle, the council repeatedly changed its grounds for intervening, alternating between blaming one parent and then the other. The mother was accused of having factitious disorder - a condition in which sufferers feign illness or exaggerate symptoms. She was also alleged to have claimed her son suffered from various illnesses. She denied both claims.
The father was assessed by a doctor to be a 'pathological liar', but later a consultant clinical psychologist refused to endorse the expression. Tim Yeo added: 'The final, favoured rationale given by social services for Poppy's adoption order was based on nothing more than the possibility of future emotional abuse.'
Now the real reason for the legalised kidnap has emerged. The mother originally came to the attention of social workers after her former husband successfully fought for custody of a son they had together. The boy was taken away after her ex-husband's girlfriend, who works for Essex Social Services, contacted a friend in Suffolk Social Services and raised 'spurious' concerns about her parenting skills. In other words, it was a put-up job by social workers colluding for personal reasons. Nice.
The couple have had no contact with their daughter, who is with adoptive parents, for 15 weeks. They hope to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights to get her back but unless it can act within the next few months the adoption will be finalised. Tim Yeo spoke again to the press this week, saying the council had a group of 'excessively zealous professionals who have an agenda to separate very young children from their natural parents'. Suffolk County Council said it was 'not appropriate' to discuss individual cases with anyone other than those directly involved. And of course those directly involved are bound by the Family Courts to keep quiet about it, leaving the County Council a free hand to do what they damn well like.
Meanwhile we hear that the Audit Commission has written to councils all over the country suggesting that they should cut bin collections to just once-a-fortnight in order to slash costs.
It gave the suggestion teeth by warning councils that they could receive poor inspection reports if they do not switch to fortnightly schemes. Last year the same body suggesting making families use kitchen slop buckets to cut the need for weekly bin collections and save £200 million a year.
A spokesman (well, a spokeslady actually) for the Campaign for Weekly Waste Collection said: 'I have lost count of the number of parents with young families who have said how disgusting it is to have nappies piling up in their bin for 13 or 14 days at a time. As well as a health hazard it is simply undemocratic to ignore the wishes of local people who want weekly collections.' Matthew Elliot of the Taxpayers’ Alliance said: “Taxpayers will be outraged that local authorities are trying to cut back on frontline services and moving away from weekly bin collections. Local authorities have become hugely wasteful in recent years and have got used to an almost blank cheque from the taxpayer. There are plenty of savings that local authorities could make before cutting down on weekly bin collections which taxpayers will rightly regard as an essential function of the council."
Grumpy Old Sod can reveal the reason why the suggestion is likely to be adopted in Suffolk. Andrea Hill, the Suffolk County Council Chief Executive and already one of the highest-paid public servants in the country, wants more.
Pay awards for council executives on six-figure salaries have already rocketed an average of 15 per cent in the last two years, but they're still not satisfied. They are demanding a 1% rise - despite the imposition of a wage freeze, and the likelihood that 20,000 low-paid council workers will lose their jobs in the face of the recession. Unemployment is expected to rise in the summer, and former public sector workers are expected to make up most of the new jobless in the next six months, but that has not stopped councils from giving executives massive rises. ACAS, the conciliation services has been called in to broker the dispute.
At Suffolk County Council, Andrea Hill earns £220,000 a year – more than the Prime Minister. Her salary is 18 per cent higher than two years ago. Kingston-upon-Hull’s chief executive Kim Ryley earns £213,162, 13 per cent up on 2007. Stoke-on-Trent City Council is paying its chief executive £195,000 - £50,000 more than its last boss, a rise of 34 per cent in two years. The city is planning a council tax rise of 2.89 per cent this year. And Wokingham borough council’s boss enjoys a salary of £157,000 a year, 17 per cent more than the £134,666 paid two years ago.
Andrea Hill - plenty to smile about
What they earn (well, not earn exactly. What they get) ...
Andrea Hill £220,000
The Prime Minister £190,000
High Court judge £170,000
Chief Constable of Suffolk £120,000
Head Teacher £60,000
Army Major £45,000
Old age pensioner £5,000
The GOS says: I already know what I'm going to do if they try and cut our bin collections. No names no packdrill, but the council offices will be getting some deliveries they weren't expecting, probably in the middle of the night. I've got a wheelie-bin and I'm not afraid to use it.
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