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No bolt-hole for president-to-be

Anyone who is familiar with the Norbreck Castle Hotel, home-from-home for Natfhe at its annual conference in Blackpool this weekend, will know the lecturers' union doesn't like to be seen to squander its members' money on high-living. In fact, Paul Mackney, the general secretary, doesn't even get a chauffeur-driven car. And hotel expenses get special attention if anyone dares to pay more than pound;45 for bed and breakfast on union business.

So, a recent request from Sam Allen, the union's vice-president, will have raised eyebrows at the union's modest HQ in Kings Cross, London. Mr Allen, who is due to be elevated to president at this year's conference, asked if he could be provided with a pad in London in order to have a bolt-hole from his duties of office. After all, we all like a little privacy of an evening.

Apparently he used his knowledge of budgets (he is a finance and accounting lecturer at Loughborough college), to argue that a flat would save the union money, pound;45-a-night hotels being rather thin on the ground in London. But this didn't wash. His request was turned down by Fawzi Ibrahim, the union's treasurer.

Mr Ibrahim refused to comment on the matter but told me: "The idea of a London flat is alien to Natfhe's tradition and unacceptable in principle."

It was sharply pointed out to Mr Allen that previous presidents, from as far as Newcastle and Belfast, managed perfectly well without a London residence.

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