False Economies

November 10, 2011 12:23 PM

The determination of local councils to cut libraries, street lighting, rubbish removal, and public toilets—the quality of our civilisation and what we pay our taxes for—rather than tackle their own waste on bureaucracy is breathtaking. Two stories in the South-West illustrate how they can get it so wrong.

Cornwall Council’s economy and environment committee recommended they cut funding to 114 of its public toilets in order to save £1.1million, but as soon as news of this got it out, it caused outrage from local taxpayers. The council has now agreed to reconsider the proposal, but a local councillor is wary. ‘This, at face value, is great news,’ he said. ‘The problem is: what does further consultation mean? Will it be along the line of the “take them over or they close” to the parish and town councils? If any local council does agree to take them over, will there be the right financial package in place?’ So, a case of appearing to make cuts, but just sifting the burden on to another branch of local government.

In the meantime, Swindon Borough Council has switched off 140 streetlights to save £20,000 a year. A highly questionable way of saving taxpayers’ money, as the TPA has already demonstrated. That would be bad enough, except that elsewhere in the borough 140 lights are being left on for a road going nowhere. Streets lights costing more than £300 a month are blazing away along a stretch of newly constructed road not yet open to the public.

‘The council should not be leaving street lights on for no reason, wasting hundreds of pounds each month,’ says an opposition councillor. ‘What is even more galling about this is that there are people in Swindon who are having their street lights switched off in order for the council to make savings, so it seems ridiculous that these street lights are being left on.’ Indeed, 433 lights turned off over the summer have had to be turned back on because of concerns over public safety!

Tim Newark, Bath & South-West TaxPayers’ AllianceThe determination of local councils to cut libraries, street lighting, rubbish removal, and public toilets—the quality of our civilisation and what we pay our taxes for—rather than tackle their own waste on bureaucracy is breathtaking. Two stories in the South-West illustrate how they can get it so wrong.

Cornwall Council’s economy and environment committee recommended they cut funding to 114 of its public toilets in order to save £1.1million, but as soon as news of this got it out, it caused outrage from local taxpayers. The council has now agreed to reconsider the proposal, but a local councillor is wary. ‘This, at face value, is great news,’ he said. ‘The problem is: what does further consultation mean? Will it be along the line of the “take them over or they close” to the parish and town councils? If any local council does agree to take them over, will there be the right financial package in place?’ So, a case of appearing to make cuts, but just sifting the burden on to another branch of local government.

In the meantime, Swindon Borough Council has switched off 140 streetlights to save £20,000 a year. A highly questionable way of saving taxpayers’ money, as the TPA has already demonstrated. That would be bad enough, except that elsewhere in the borough 140 lights are being left on for a road going nowhere. Streets lights costing more than £300 a month are blazing away along a stretch of newly constructed road not yet open to the public.

‘The council should not be leaving street lights on for no reason, wasting hundreds of pounds each month,’ says an opposition councillor. ‘What is even more galling about this is that there are people in Swindon who are having their street lights switched off in order for the council to make savings, so it seems ridiculous that these street lights are being left on.’ Indeed, 433 lights turned off over the summer have had to be turned back on because of concerns over public safety!

Tim Newark, Bath & South-West TaxPayers’ Alliance

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