Payouts in Wales
Jul 2014 29

Figures released last week by BBC Wales have highlighted that local authorities have spent £30m of taxpayers’ money on redundancy packages. There have been a number of local authorities in Wales who have increased council tax up to 5% and the figures are nearly double last year’s. When I hit the streets and talk to residents in Wales, they often complain about cuts to their front-line services, with no serious attempt by some local authorities to make serious savings. Continue Reading

TPA protests the hated Holiday Tax in Bristol
Jul 2014 29

TPA supporters protested against Air Passenger Duty (APD) in Bristol Airport yesterday, setting up a stall in the departure zone and chatting to holidaymakers. APD is a departure tax charged on flights from the UK and can add over hundreds of pounds to long haul flights. On a standard rate flight from London to New York, it adds £138 to the overall cost. For a longer flight to South East Asia that becomes a whopping £170. As for a family holiday to Florida with economy flights that’s an extra £276 in duty alone. Even on short haul flights the hated holiday tax can push up the cost of a flight by as much as 50%.

“You spend all year working to pay the high cost of living,” said one traveller, “and you get slapped with this on your holiday. To just pay for this tax I’d have to work five shifts. It’s just not fair.”

“Our particular concern in Bristol,” said Jacqui Mills of Bristol Airport, ‘is that if a devolved Wales gets tax raising powers, it will scrap this duty—just as Scotland would too—and then Cardiff will grab all our travel trade with cheaper duty-free fares.”

The tax was first introduced in 2006 and has been increased several times since then, being doubled in 2007 and going up by 8% in 2012, with increases by the rate of inflation in 2013 and 2014.

This year’s Budget announced some reforms to the tax which will reduce the future burden on travellers a little. Passengers flying to all long-haul destinations from April 2015 will pay the same rate as they do to fly to the US. However, passengers using private jets will be hit harder by the changes, paying six times the amount of APD charged to economy class passengers. And of course, the changes do little for families jetting off to the beaches of Spain, Portugal and Turkey this summer.

A spokesman for IAG, British Airways’ parent company, was unimpressed, saying “It still punishes families and costs UK jobs. The only long-term solution is to scrap APD in its entirety and allow the aviation and tourism industries to flourish, to the benefit of the wider UK economy.”

It’s time for George Osborne to go further, and make Britain an aviation-friendly country once again.

A Town Council with an unfortunate penchant for hoarding
Jul 2014 29

It’s slightly unusual for a council at the parish level to feature on this blog, but Dover Town Council has surpassed itself in costing the taxpayer dear and not spending wisely. In the last few months they have reached new heights of unpopularity.

The Council has listened to locals on occasion – in one recent year, they bowed to pressure and froze their council tax take, but the norm has been for above-inflation increases. Their precept – the amount the Council wishes to collect in tax revenue – was £633,150 in 2012, rising to £764,474 in 2013 and £885,977 in 2014. Public disapproval has been aroused several times over what has been both spent and not spent. They refused grants to the local carnival procession, while happily spending on regalia for the mayor and town clerk, and lavish ceremonies. Staff received above-inflation salary increases and a generous Christmas dinner bonus. Also purchased: a new car for the mayor and a 4×4 for official use – the official reason being the need to access their allotments. Two vehicles in a smallish town? No War on Waste there!

They managed to put a picture on their website purporting to be Dover’s white cliffs that turned out to be somewhere else. They made national news when, without any consultation, they put benches in the town’s main pedestrian precinct that were “deliberately designed” to be uncomfortable so as to discourage people sitting on them too long (the intended target being people with drink, though it ended up hitting everybody else just wanting a rest with their shopping). There was also a matter of franchising out a reopening public toilet on the seafront as a combined toilet and shop. This was delayed for a year by their not following correct procedure and a bid being put in by a councillor without declaring their interest. There are other issues, from the lack of a World War I ceremony to the memorial benches dedicated to loved ones were found dumped behind their offices. I could go on, but will concentrate on the matter of our money.

It has now come to light via the Dover Express that Dover Town Council reserves are quite considerable, bearing in mind the council’s size: £764,474 in 2012, £885,977 in 2013 rising to £1,148,938 in 2014. This prompted the rather blunt headline – “Town council is hoarding £1 million of your money”. It is difficult to justify why that money is being held in reserve, rather on essential services or being used to reduce people’s tax bill.

Unsurprisingly, a petition is being started calling for the abolition of the town council. Before we had a town council, after district councils were set up (replacing the old borough council) Dover had Charter Trustees. They too proved very good at spending and losing money. Something, clearly, has to change.

Can the road to Kansas deliver economic results?
Jul 2014 25

The Daily Telegraph’s Jeremy Warner says that Britain should follow Kansas and dramatically reduce taxes, citing the economic benefits that the state is starting to enjoy. Mr Warner highlights evidence that:

both private-sector growth and job creation have improved sharply relative to national averages. Rates of private-sector job growth are virtually back up to the national average, having significantly lagged behind them in the past. Kansas is also experiencing record levels of company registrations. Many of these will eventually lead to start-ups and extra jobs. Continue Reading

Avon and Somerset need bobbies on the beat, not flower power
Jul 2014 25

Avon and Somerset Police have spent £5,000 on a flower garden, in an effort to reduce local crime rates. The idea is that a communal area will reduce anti-social behaviour. As a result, the regenerated part of St. Andrew’s Park becomes another area of questionable policies in Bristol, after the mayor’s proposal of “Residents’ Parking Zones”  . While the new garden is no doubt pleasant, it’s effectiveness in cutting down on crime is clearly an area of doubt. This sort of item is for local councils, not police budgets. Continue Reading

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