I have a friend who once worked in a high position within the Civil Service (local government). When relocating to Southern England, she applied for a number of positions in London Councils and one position in Torbay Council. My friend is British-Chinese, but is married to a Westerner and carries his surname. When she turned-up for interview in Torquay, she was greeted with indignation by the administration staff, who kept repeating to her that she must be mistaken, and that there must have been an error! When she produced her formal letter of invite – the admin staff went into complete confusion-mode, and started telephoning Council Offices – knowing full well that they had just been caught racially discriminating against a potential Torbay Council employee. Eventually, someone in authority made their appearance and starting profusely apologising for the behaviour of their staff, explaining it away as ‘inexperience’ and not the ‘racism’ that it obviously was. The expressed confusion was that my friend was a) a Chinese woman, but b) introduced herself with a Western-surname. Of course, everyone in Torbay Council knew what had happened because a natural racism permeates the operating culture of the place, (in Matthew Collins book entitled ‘Hate’, Torquay is described as a bastion of far-right opinion and activism). The problem Torbay Council had, was that my friend occupied an important financial post, and had a track record of extensive success in generating income for Local Councils, and managing various community and business construction projects in other areas of the UK. The problems did not stop there. During the interview (which took place in the early 2000’s), she was told that her salary would be considerably ‘less’ than elsewhere in the UK, but that this was OK because if she accepted the post, she would be living ‘by the sea’. Adding insult to injury, she was then informed that there would be no ‘relocation’ grant as Torbay Council could not afford it. Of course, she was offered the post immediately but refused on the grounds of her racist treatment, poor working conditions and deficient pay – opting to work in London instead.
Whilst visiting my parents in Torquay this week, I have been informed by local radio that Torbay Council is near to bankruptcy and that local residents must now prepare themselves for drastic (further) cuts in services (with threats that next year’s Air Show might be ‘cancelled’). Torbay Council is conservative in nature, and has enthusiastically initiated all the Tory-LibDems cuts throughout the Borough since 2010, plunging the local population into terminal poverty, homelessness and starvation. Torbay Council is ‘bankrupt’ not because of the local people (who pay ample amounts in Council Tax), but because Central Government has cut the amount of money it distributes to Local Councils. The Tories cut, but the ordinary people pay. However, exactly the same local radio also informs me that ‘all is not lost’, as Torbay Council has decided to repeal the local regulation ‘banning’ the Salvation Army marching through the town and playing their instruments ‘loudly’ on a sunday morning! Now, the poor and destitute may have their spirits lifted (if not their bodies treated and fed) by a rightwing religious cult that dresses in military uniforms and pretends its members are police officers!