Diary - And the winner is

2nd January 2009 at 00:00

I'd been invited to the New Year Awards ceremony at Paranoia Central, aka the council offices.

The chief executive and the council leader were keen on "rewarding excellence and achievement", if and when they could find it. The cynical among you would imagine this was an excuse for a new frock, a chance for an ego massage, an assault on a wine lake or a shocking waste of taxpayers' money.

The Oscars for the Overpaid were an annual event, starting this year. They had hired "a big name" to host and wouldn't have got much change out of five grand. What an assortment of phoneys. Sparkling teeth, gloss, cheap jewellery, whiffs of perfume and oils of Arabia - and that was the men. The women were barely dressed. Some almost bare. Many wore a tea-towel, or a handkerchief or string to cover what remained of their modesty. My little black number was a tent by comparison.

It was a night when the worst excesses of local government were displayed for all to see. Thankfully, after the amount of wine consumed, few could see at all. The chief executive was at his worst. As some wag once said, he had fallen in love with himself at an early age and had been faithful ever since. He was sycophantic, condescending and superficial. These qualities should ensure inclusion in an honours list at some time.

The first award was for Innovation in Service Delivery. The celebrity "star", who once appeared in Emmerdale apparently, announced the nominations. I nearly laughed when the contenders were listed. Their "achievements" were the Art Nouveau Wheelie Bins, the Shop-a-Skiver Service and the winner - the life-changing chief executive's blog. Strangely, I assumed that he was sitting next to his blog.

The evening didn't get any better, as awards went for Pushing the Envelope, Blue-Sky Thinking, Policy Co-ordinating, Meeting the Challenge and KPI Integration. At least it shortened the winter and the telly was rotten. I wanted no part of this self-congratulatory love-in. I hated every minute of this totally irrelevant nonsense. Who did they think they were?

And then it happened. A spotlight shone on our table. I froze. The celebrity announced the nominations for Best Newcomer of the Year. She read from the prepared card. She slurred her words. Nobody noticed. "And for her revolutionary reappraisal of her service delivery, her determination to face challenges head-on and for establishing an innovative leadership style, Bridget McElroy has been a breath of fresh air."

My rivals were Sylvia from social development, Peter from policy and Penny from planning. I might win on alphabetical alliteration if nothing else.

And the winner is Bridget Mc-Elroy. Thunderous applause. Whistles. Cheers. I've always liked award ceremonies, especially when they get it right.

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