Bell on ... well-heeled working girls

The TUC debate about women's footwear in the workplace had caught Andy's eye. He immediately thought of his colleague Debbie. Behind the modesty panel of her desk, amid the tangle of cables that underpinned their modern council planning office, was the biggest shoe collection outside Manila.

"There are my trainers that I come to work in and another pair I use when I go jogging with the girls at lunchtime," said Debbie. "Then I have some lace-up shoes for site visits and my lovely green wellies for when it's wet and muddy. My black patents are for committee. It's important to be smart and everyone can see everything under the tables, so long skirts and kitten heels it is."

She continued: "I keep my Jimmy Choo stilettos for a certain developer. I can't tell you how many pre-application meetings I've managed to bring on for just a small mixed-use scheme. I make sure that I pin the plans up so that we are not sitting down. I call my stilettos my 'planning gain', but give it an hour and my feet are screaming.

"Then I have my normal high heels to wear with trousers and skirts if I go to see the boss. My pink Crocs are for popping out for a sandwich at lunchtime," she finished. "They're all essential to a woman in the workplace. It's all right for you Andy, you have it easy."

Andy looked down at his black loafers, which had been in continuous use for nearly a year and were scarred with everything from secondary aggregates to arguments with a plan chest. Perhaps he needed a second pair? "I have some strappy backs and some pumps jammed under the console," said Debbie. "Take your pick."

Graeme Bell is director of planning, infrastructure and economy for Devon County Council. The views expressed are his own.


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