I WANT you to imagine you supply an essential service to the community and it’s a monopoly.

In an attempt to show the price you charge for your labour is fair and you are not simply exploiting your unique position, your income is decided by an independent panel.

Obviously the recruitment of that panel is of great interest to you but if it is to have any credibility the appointment and remuneration of said panel must be totally beyond your control.

Not much point having a panel at all if it were to be seen simply as your mouthpiece. Pretty obvious isn’t it?

Well not to Members of Parliament who have somehow managed to appoint their own ‘independent’ body to determine their income.

It will come as no surprise therefore to learn that while the pay increase for civil servants this year has been capped at 1.5 per cent, MPs will receive 2.7 per cent.

What sort of leadership is that?

Since 2012, MPs’ pay has increased by 21 per cent while nurses, teachers etc will be lucky to have seen a third of that.

‘Independent’ pay body IPSA insists that the increase in the salary of MPs is in line with a formula published in 2015 – a formula that is apparently not available to anyone else in the land except MPs.

Had our politicians had their earnings linked to performance – as happens with many of their constituents – they would be lucky to be in a job.

Instead their earnings have escalated at a rate very few outside the House of Commons have seen.

While the rest of the country struggles, the Westminster gravy train rolls on.


One of the most frightening ideas I have heard recently is the plan for Cheshire East Council to invest in the property business. No, no not frightening...make that terrifying. Terrifying because they will be doing it with our money.

Not one of those councillors or officers will have a single penny at risk in this commercial enterprise. You, my friends, will be footing the entire bill.

So tell me this if you had a choice of investing in Tenerife Snow Ploughs, Lead Drones or Cheshire East Council where would your money go? Mmm...I thought so.

This is the council that helped set up a company to provide IT services only for it to be wound up after making huge losses.

The very same council that wasted £3 million on a waste transfer station for which it ‘forgot’ to seek planning permission...from itself.

Can you imagine the response CEC would receive from a commercial bank?

BANK: “So, you are seeking funds to enter the property market?”

CEC: “Yes, that is correct?”

BANK: “And how much money are we talking here?”

CEC: “Millions.”

BANK: “And can you enlighten us on your previous financial investments.”

CEC: “Oh yes we spent hundreds of thousands on street lighting.”

BANK: “And how did you make them a financial success?”

CEC: “We switched them off.”

BANK: “Mmm...any more ventures we should know about?”

CEC: “We made a packet on bus services.”

BANK: “Excellent, how did you achieve that?”

CEC: “We cut services.”

BANK: “Close the door on the way out will you?”

Because of the easy access CEC enjoys to public funds none of the regular commercial checks and balances apply. Any organisation with the track record of Cheshire East wouldn’t get through the door of an investment bank.

This is the organisation that had its vital air quality data deliberately and systematically manipulated and doesn’t have a clue who did it. Is this the organisation you want speculating large sums of money on your behalf?


I WAS staying at a rather grand hotel in Tenerife recently where the breakfast buffet was sumptuous. For a guy that usually grabs a coffee and a banana before work, the temptation of smoked salmon, croissants and cream cheese was just too much but not quite enough to save me from the chocolate covered doughnuts.

In an attempt to ‘walk-off’ the calories Mrs B took me for a stroll on the beach. After 30 minutes we sat on the sand to admire the view. My eyes were immediately taken to a slender man standing on one leg by the water’s edge.

He was uttering some form of Buddhist chant while scattering seeds from his open palm for the sea birds, his only protection from the burning sun an organza shawl.

It was a mesmerising performance culminating in him sitting cross-legged while eating the same seed he had given the birds. Every detail of his lithe body was accentuated by the rays of the sun and my guilt for devouring such a massive breakfast in the face of this man’s discipline was all consuming.

I felt dreadful and I couldn’t shake it off. Why had I been such a glutton? I berated myself for my lack of self-control.

Later I saw the same man...sat at a beach bar knocking back a pint of San Miguel while devouring a huge bowl of chips.

My happiness knew no bounds. I was dancing on air. He wasn’t some disciplined mystic after all. He was just like me (give or take a steak and ale pie).

By Guardian columnist Vic Barlow