Fat-fingered researchers at the right wing Tax Payer’s Alliance (TPA) were left sweating this week after a major error in their town hall rich list.
The TPA had claimed Thanet District Council was employing a shocking 21 staff on over £100,000 per year; a huge number for a small district council.
The report, part of an investigation alongside the Daily Mail, was widely picked up by local and national press.
Unfortunately, when it came to Thanet, the numbers were complete bollocks.
Of course by then jaws had dropped, people had shrieked on Facebook, the Isle of Thanet Gazette had taken the TPA at face value and ran the story.
“Erm” piped up TDC, “That’s not right!” And everyone started yelling at each other.
I picked up the phone to the TPA this morning to find out what happened:
The TPA had FOI’d TDC, asking how many Fat Cats™ they had. (They really didn’t need to. The data is in the public domain already).
“Two”, TDC’s communications people replied, trusting their own website.
“Ah!” Said the TPA. “21!” (Because what’s a 1050% increase between friends?) Out went the TPA report. Up went the chorus of condemnation.
“What happened and who’s actually right?” I asked.
“Neither of us” they replied defensively, admitting that the figure of 21 was a fat fingered error, but not sounding very apologetic.
And not wanting it to be as simple as them being thoroughly wrong, they interrogated TDC’s accounts more closely and came to the number six. TDC disputed that too.
The number of TDC staff on over £100,000, the TPA and TDC eventually agreed, is not two, nor six, nor 21. It’s four. (The Chief Executive, Director of Operational Services, Director of Community Services and Director of Shared Services, since you ask).
So there you have it. TDC has four Fat Cats. The TPA has one giant Fat Finger.
p.s. For what it’s worth, given TDC’s struggle to retain skilled staff, its previous problems as highlighted by the LGA and so on, personally I don’t object to good staff being well paid – as long as they are doing their jobs properly and not setting up private companies (this member of staff has now quit) at the same time.