I got myself into a bit of trouble with the Deputy Speaker in the House of Commons the other week.
The House was again debating how much money councils are given by the government to help run services.
Caroline Flint, the shadow Communities Secretary, was getting up a real head of steam talking about how ridiculous the coalition’s position was on potential savings in councils.
Ms Flint pooh-poohed the idea of executive pay being able to have any effect at all. Apparently, it could only ever be the merest flea-bite on the back side of an elephant (my interpretation).
Our position is that until a council can show it has cut executive pay, looked for efficiencies, shared services with other councils and so on, there’s no excuse for cutting front line services.
As it happened, I had the figures on savings from Hampshire County Council with me. These showed that Hampshire is cutting an annual £7m in executive pay, or some 15 per cent of the total savings needed. That’s a big flea.
I rose to intervene.
‘Will the Right Honourable Lady give way?’ I asked as I caught her eye.
‘Not now,’ she said.
‘On this very point,’ I added, and she sat down.
So I told the House about Hampshire and, as I brought up the number of £7m, the Labour front bench fell about in mock hilarity at such a preposterous number. They thought I was plainly an idiot. The number couldn’t be that high.
This was when I got myself in a bit of trouble with the Deputy Speaker.
Interventions are supposed to be short and, rather than making my point and sitting down, I took the other side to task.
Unfortunately, in the heat of battle, I hadn’t seen the Deputy Speaker rise and didn’t hear her either. She was most displeased.
Sadly, Labour genuinely think it inconceivable that a council could make £7m of savings from something like executive pay.
Many councils think the same. Fortunately for us, Hampshire does not.