At the height of lockdown, when Bitou residents were anxiously wondering where their next meal was coming from, the Council decided to play Lady Bountiful. The Mayor would receive, free gratis and for nothing, a luxury limo to cruise as he chooses. On top of this – sort of doubling down by doubling up – his Deputy would get one too. The Councillors must have thought carefully when they embarked upon these transports of delight. Whatever the ifs and buts of the current economic recession, their Mayoralties cannot be expected to travel in their own jalopies and, if the Mayor is to get his Merc, his Deputy should have at least Beemer to tootle around in. Fair’s fair: what’s Mayonnaise for the goose is Mayonnaise for the gander.
There was once precedent for this largesse, and the Councillors were told as much. In the proposal, they learnt that ‘the municipality have been providing over the years a vehicle to the Executive Mayor and recently to the Deputy Executive Mayor.’ The limos, it was explained, are received as ‘part of the tools of trade in execution of responsibilities.’
Mr Mkhefa, who proposed the resolution, reassuringly stated that the acquisitions would be ‘in line with new Cost Containment Regulations’. The Councillors had every reason to take him at his word. He is the Chief Financial Officer and the fact that he currently faces criminal charges of fraud is simply by the by. People are innocent till proved guilty. We know this because we are repeatedly told it.
Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for the ratepayers, Mr Mkhefa is wrong. The “Upper Limits of Councillors’ Remuneration” schedule, has since 2015 closed the loophole by which motor vehicles were treated as ‘tools of trade’. The so-called Cost Containment regulations are irrelevant. Now a Councillor (which includes their Worships the Mayors) may only utilize a municipal vehicle in “exceptional circumstances” and “upon good cause shown” and subject to the “approval of the Mayor or Speaker”. Clearly the provision of a car for regular use is not permitted. Daily trips back and forth to the council chamber are anything but exceptional and there is every reason why, in common with the rest of us, their Worships should use their own devices to get to work and back.
We have warned the Council not to proceed with the resolution. If they do not back down, your Association will force it to do so by legal action.
As the old saying goes: ‘It is better to take the Beemer out of your own eyrie before taking the motor out of another’s.’