Friday, 14 May 2010

Vanity plate or part of city's heritage?

With the "cuts" blame-game moving into political overdrive, an instructive example of the attitude of some politicians to the public purse appeared in last weekend's Sunday Post. It reported that half of Scotland's local authorities own private registration numbers/numpty plates/cherished number plates/chav plates/prestige number plates/vanity plates (delete according to taste) and that some of these could be worth up to £500,000, with a total value of a million and a half pounds.

These are normally on vehicles used to transport local authority, ahem, dignitaries*, but some are unused. By some miracle the Post managed to extract a quote from the Taxpayers' Alliance, which said: "This kind of indulgence reflects the attitude of politicians towards the hard-pressed taxpayer. They should be auctioned off and the proceeds used to directly benefit communities".

Equally predictable was the righteous indignation from the local authorities involved, with Glasgow City Council saying: "These plates are not only assets that grow more valuable by being retained, they are also part of the civic history of Glasgow and the west of Scotland.”

There seems little point mentioning the fact that the registration numbers are appreciating in value if they're going to be retained anyway, but the "civic history" argument is surely scraping the barrel a bit, particularly in today's climate.

Indeed, Dundee's Lord Provost (pictured), whose TS 1 plate was valued at £150,000, was later quoted in the Courier as saying:
I understand we have to save money in a recession, but I wouldn't have thought the sale of TS 1 would be considered. A figure of £150,000 is quite a minimal sum when set against the council budget and against the history of TS 1 to the city. Selling it off would be like selling off the city's history. I doubt very much that anybody would want to say "let's sell this" as it's such a strong part of our history. If you consider other valuable things the city has, such as the lord provost's chain of office, you would have to ask where selling the family silver would stop. I think we should retain things of historical value in to Dundee.
Oh well, I must be in a minority of one then, and no doubt everyone else in Dundee considers TS 1 a strong part of our history - or municipal ostentation, perhaps? And, hey, the proceeds from a sale would pay my council tax for 150 years, or it could even be used for more worthy purposes, but it's "quite a minimal sum" really, and no doubt our public sector is full of almost innumerable "minimal sums", so that's OK then. As for the lord provost wittering on about "retaining things of historical value", er, let's not go there.

Oh, and the Post article should dispel the rumour that Lord Provost Letford's official car is a Russian ZiL; it's actually a Volkswagen Phaeton. On the other hand, this probably underlines the view that the car itself is an expensive extravagance as compared to the previous lowly Volvo s80 (the one in the Sunday Post's picture, above), which could very probably have been retained in service for another few years at a "minimal sum", not to mention Mr Letford's previous exhortations to buy locally sourced goods and services. The cost of these civic limousines was also featured in the press last year.

*Perhaps like the Midlothian provost who claimed £950 in expenses for a kilt and 150-mile trip to collect it, and when challenged said: "I've got f*** all to explain to the SNP group. And you can quote me on every word of that."


Not a Village in Westminster said...

And we wonder why people are scunnered with politics!

Not normally one to agree with the Taxpayers Alliance, but I suppose statistically they were bound to be right at some point! Ludicrous that LAs have private license plates, and kind of defeats the purpose of blacking out their license numbers on TV for security purposes!

Stuart Winton said...

I hadn't thought about the security aspect, but I think the LP's car in Dundee has little flags on it, so together with the flash limo and private plates I suppose the main aim is to be noticed, and I doubt if security is an issue in Dundee.

Rab o'Ruglen said...


I would be sorry to see Glasgow's "G0" disappear onto some Chav's motor. Apparently AE Pickard, the well known Glasgow millionaire and general nut job eccentric owned "G1" and refused to sell it to the City who petitioned Parliament to be allowed to introduce "G0". G0 is consequently, as far as I am aware, the only single letter "0" digit registration in Britain, the rest starting at "1". It must therefore be worth a fortune, as well as being a bit of local history. I would just as soon see the City Chambers being sold as a housing development.

Now there's an idea!


Stuart Winton said...

Thanks for the background notes, Rab.

G0 would certainly make a nice plate for George Osborne, but I suspect he's a bit short of cash at the moment.