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Chief executive axed after car parks fiasco

(September 17, 2011)
NEWS that the county council is to get rid of its chief executive little more than a year after he took up the highly paid post has sent out a few shock-waves.
The dismissal can be directly linked to the council's biggest failure - the imposition of punitive parking charges in market towns.
The new charges have, as we predicted, seen revenues slump.
Just a few weeks ago we were arguing that councillors and the top official, Mr Kerr, didn't seem to understand that price elasticity of demand for parking varied quite so much between big cities and small towns, but it does.
Mr Kerr had previously always worked for big city authorities and wouldn't have known this and the council leader, Jane Scott, unlike her predecessor Peter Chalk, is not a long-term resident of this county.
''Put plainly the elasticity factor means that you can jack up the car parking charges in cities because there is little alternative parking and people simply have to pay or instead use public transport,'' said Steve Dancey.
''In small towns they make other arrangements, walk or find parking in side streets so price increases produce diminishing returns.''
According to the Wiltshire Council spin machine they have identified 70m pounds of cuts but with the 500,000 pound shortfall they just had to axe the chief and another member of the team. Sorry that simply doesn't convince.
Mr Kerr is being hung out to dry. You simply don't treat staff like this when it is your mistake.
There are genuine factors which have increased costs for County Hall such as adult care costs. Although the Lib-dems are right in pointing out that life expectancy is rising so this should have been budgeted for, it also is a bit unfair as the mild weather between January and March this year meant there were 30 per cent fewer deaths than expected in Wiltshire this year.
In Britain, unlike Scandinavia, the authorities expect old folk to die in the cold.
SO WHAT now? The council needs to act to restore its credibility and it will still need someone to be a head of the paid service - the de facto chief executive.
That person should be Mark Boden simply as he has the experience and ability to do the job. He was the former chief of Kennet District Council which was always the best run local council in Wiltshire.
Financially Wiltshire has coped better with the cuts than elsewhere partly because of its unitary status but it seems to feel remote and lacking in accountability.
And as former councillor Paul Macdonald has already pointed out (hot topic - Crazy parking meter - August 6th) "Once again councillors Andrew Davis and Keith Humphries have left me almost lost for words...They have spent thousands on a parking meter and provided just four spaces...They need to take a long look at themselves...or use a shovel to dig another hole for themselves!"
Perhaps the credibility meter is running out on these two as well.

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