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Diary - See how they run ..

The new chief executive is not a happy bunny. The realities of life in Scottish local government are biting. He has been told to make "savings", or cuts as we used to call them. No Sacred Cows. Every service to be "reviewed". It must be all of five months since we were last "reviewed".

Gregory, for that is our Leader's name, wants to have a Star Chamber. Apparently, it was all the rage when he was in Croydon. Each director has to face a trial by peers. Justify spending. Justify staffing. Justify services. We are in troubled times.

The councillors' lunches are being cut back to three courses. Lights are to be switched off in the members' lounge when not in use. That should save a few millions. We are to have an Away Day to find the missing millions. Not in a hotel, mind you. No, we are heading for the wilds of Timber Lodge, a converted outdoor centre. Soup and sandwiches.

Gregory paints the picture. It is all doom and gloom. Pet projects, slush funds and contingencies are to be laid out for inspection. Is nothing sacred? Gregory has brought along his policy team for support. They are known affectionately as The Three Bland Mice, a sycophantic trio who, surprisingly, used to work with Gregory in Croydon.

Now Jim, our director of human resources, has an impish sense of humour. "Gregory, why don't we try a Reverse Star Chamber?" Gregory's bluff has been called. He doesn't know. The Three Bland Mice cough nervously. The Emperor's New Clothes are looking very flimsy indeed.

Gregory fidgets, looks uncomfortable and reluctantly agrees. He is being led into an ambush. "Jim, remind those who don't know about a Reverse Star Chamber how it works."

Game, set and match to Jim. Gregory is on the back foot. Has he brought his brown trousers with him? Jim explains that the Reverse Star Chamber is a process where directors identify savings in other departments, but not their own. I almost burst out laughing. Jim emphasised that all savings so identified were binding and couldn't be overturned by the CE.

"Education must be protected as far as possible," said my pal Teresa from finance. I owe her another few vodkas at our church squash club for that. I supported the protection of her finance staffing allocation, naturally.

After a few hours of soul-searching, we identified more than a million pounds of savings. It wasn't easy and there was general agreement that education should be protected. Bring Out Your Dead!

I take no pleasure in reporting the sacrifice of the policy team. Wiped out by a totally unanimous vote of all those present. Except one. Gregory was almost greetin' as he saw The Three Bland Mice run after Teresa the Finance Wife. She had cut off their tails with our savings knife.

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