One of the main stories in the Sunday Times today is the one about Gordon Brown telling senior Army officers to travel second class to save costs. Needless to say this is not a popular move with senior officers claiming they need to travel first class because they need to work on the train and there are confidentiality issues, to which I would say, 'welcome to the real world.' I regularly travel to Cardiff, second class and I use the opportunity to read papers in preparation, I wouldn't think of using First class.
The Army aren't the only ones to maintain a system of privelege the Police are exactly the same, Superintendents and above can travel First class whilst the rest travel second class. In 30 years with the Police I only recall travelling First Class twice and that was because I was accompanying a Superintendent on both occasions.
Another area within the Public Services that stink of privilege and inequality is that of leased cars. In North Wales Police for example 51 Police and Support staff have leased cars, of those 24 are Superintendent's and above, whilst only 9 are of ranks of Chief Inspector or below. The total anticipated cost of running the leased car scheme for this year is £340,000 or £6,700 each, nice if you can get it.
Unsurprisingly a large number of Police Officers use their own cars for which they get reimbursed at casual user rate which is taxable. One would expect that leased cars for senior officers to be taxed as a benefit as well but I think you'll find that 'emergency vehicles' are exempt which is why most lease cars are fitted with blue lights in the grills. So not only do senior Police Officers get a perk at public expense but are also exempt from paying tax on the benefits.
One of the burning issues within local authorities recently has been the need to equalise pay and conditions following equal pay claims. Many of the issues were around who was entitled to essential user allowance and who wasn't and whether an equal pay claim was possible from this inequality. If Local Authorities are subject to equal pay claims how come other public bodies like North Wales Police are not even though they seem to have thoroughly unequal policies as regards travel costs and lease cars.
Perhaps the North Wales Police Project 2011+ team should start looking for their £14 million savings starting with the lease car system and first class travel perks.