South Bucks Council recently informed local taxpayers of ‘exciting changes’ being made to their waste and recycling collection service, but one local resident is ‘excited’ in a completely different way.
‘I am rarely excited by matters of waste disposal,’ says South Bucks resident and TPA supporter Susan Dudley, ‘but I have to say that in this instance they were right as I am excited by feelings of anger and annoyance to find that my council tax money has been spent on issuing households with a third new wheelie bin, a black one with a fancy blue top. Quite apart from the desecration of the street scene by the addition of a garish, inappropriate bin [in addition to four other current containers], I am horrified at the wanton expense. South Bucks has, in effect, not only discarded perfectly serviceable green bins and are charging for a service for which council taxes are already paying, but they have spent a fortune on new and unnecessary plastic street ware.’
South Bucks Council wants to charge £45 for a fortnightly garden waste collection that had previously been free to residents who already paid for waste removal through their council tax. In addition to this, the council has issued a bewilderingly complicated plan for collecting different kinds of waste in five different kinds of colour coded taxpayer-funded containers over alternating weeks!
‘I am assuming that these changes have come about because of some change to the waste collection contract,’ says Dudley. ‘Why should I pay more for my previously free garden refuse collection when the money is being profligately squandered on “new bins for all”? Surely the idea of green bins to recycle waste is being undermined when huge plastic bins themselves are targeted for wanton disposal.’
‘To complain about such a small and seemingly unimportant issue seems petty in these times of gargantuan public debt, biblical levels of flooding and ordinary people squeezed in their pockets in all aspects of their lives,’ continues Dudley. ‘Nevertheless, it seems to have been the policy of the Tax Payers’ Alliance to tackle waste, large and small on a case by case basis and that has been the basis of its resounding success in changing attitudes to public profligacy.’
Thank you, Susan, you are quite right. The TPA’s War on Waste is aimed at both small and large examples of government wasting taxpayers’ money—especially when it comes down to five different colour coded bins to remove garbage.
At a time when the Environment Agency has been criticised over its advice and handling of the terrible floods across our country, it seems odd that it should be pursuing a burdensome and costly new level of bureaucracy. The EA now wants to create a paper trail for every item of pest control waste—such as rat baits left over from a treatment —and is threatening to charge pest controllers £5 per disposal item. For a busy pest controller this could amount to a whopping extra cost of £40 per day plus a great deal of time taken to fill in the documents and process them.
‘It is a threat hanging over the entire industry, which could add thousands of pounds per year onto the costs of the small to medium sized companies that make up the pest control industry,’ says Iain Turner, Chairman of the National Pest Technicians Association. ‘Pest controllers will have to produce more complicated paperwork than previously, which will require more admin time—and money—to deal with. We will also have to pay higher charges to dispose of the “spent bait” than previously as they have now decided it should be classified as “Hazardous Waste” rather than “Non-Hazardous”.’
It is a classic example of taxpayer-funded bureaucracies adding to the cost of small businesses in the UK.
‘Just to rub salt in the wounds,’ says Turner, ‘this change of definition only affects England and Wales—not Scotland or Northern Ireland. I understand that only Sweden has taken a similar approach to implementing what was an EU Directive. Once again our civil servants appear to be “gold plating” EU laws, to the detriment of small businesses in this country.’
Welsh Councils are in the process of setting their budgets and many are proposing big hikes in Council Tax of up to 5 per cent. Swansea has already approved a 5 per cent increase. This is the same Swansea council that recently limited the amount of bin bags households can leave out for already heavily curtailed fortnightly bin collections.
These hikes are bad news for local taxpayers who have seen services cut but are still paying more for the privilege. Many councils across the border have frozen Council Tax yet Welsh residents are getting hit with inflation busting hikes. Councils have to make savings but waste is still alto common across local government as huge pay-outs continue to senior staff and schemes used for aesthetics are given priority over hard-working families.
Ceredigion’s County Council is another authority proposing a 5 per cent increase.
The Taxpayers Alliance will be holding a protest outside Ceredigion’s County Council offices in Aberaeron in response to this proposed hike. We hope that you can join us. If you can help support the campaign against council tax increases in Wales, get in touch.
What: Ceredigion Council Tax action day
Where: Ceredigion County Council, Aberaeron, Ceredigion, SA46 0PA
When: Thursday 20th February at 9.00am
On a rainy day at Balliol College, one of Oxford University’s oldest and most prestigious colleges, students gathered in its subterranean bar to support our Cut Cider Tax campaign. They collected dozens of signatures for our petition calling on a cut in the Cider Duty Escalator, which automatically adds duty of 2% above inflation to a pint of cider. The ghost of former postgraduate student Adam Smith must have nodded approvingly.
‘With pubs closing across the country,’ says Oxford student Jack Matthews, ‘the Government needs to do all it can to help this important industry. Cutting the cider tax would be a great show of support to our hardworking publicans.’
After the signature collecting, students celebrated a successful action day with a few pints of Thatchers cider at favourite student pub the King’s Arms in the heart of Oxford. For those wanting to taste a locally brewed cider, they should try Thorn Brook cider produced by the Little Orchard Company on the Oxfordshire/Warwickshire border, north of Banbury. Very nice!
Please sign our online petition here:
Students flocked to our Essex Taxpayers’ Alliance action day at the University of Essex near Colchester to support our Cut Cider Tax campaign. A petition to axe the Cider Tax escalator, which increases the duty on cider by 2% above inflation every year, attracted 120 signatures on the day.
‘Cutting cider tax will leave more money in students’ pockets,’ says Essex University student Alex Evelyn. ‘It will boost local pubs and brewers by encouraging people to drink there, rather than buying cheap supermarket brands and drinking at home.’
A quarter of the price of every pint of cider you buy is taken in tax. That means that for every four pints you buy at the bar, you also have to pay out for a fifth one for George Osborne. The extra costs have put a lot of people off of drinking in their local pub, or buying local brews.
‘My dad was a pub landlord,’ said one supporter. ‘Between alcohol duties, the smoking ban, health and safety and cheap competition from supermarkets, small businesses are just being squeezed out.’
Pressure to repeal the cider tax escalator has built since the beer duty escalator was abolished last year. We hope our campaign on cider tax will be just as successful this year. Naturally, TPA supporters rewarded themselves with a pint of cider and raised a toast to the plan to abolish this unfair tax!
Please sign our online petition here:
Bath shopkeepers and restaurateurs are up in arms over Bath & North East Somerset (B&NES) council’s dramatic rise in on-street parking charges—up by 41% in some places!
Streets in central Bath are now part of a premium zone where the parking charges have rocketed. In Laura Place, next to the historic Pulteney Bridge with its plethora of small independent shops, the charge for an hour of parking has risen steeply from £2.40 to £3.40- a 42 per cent increase.
‘Now there is greater park and ride capacity, there is less need for motorists to drive their car into the city centre for an on-street space,’ says a Bath council spokesperson. ‘We also want to encourage people to use on-street car parking for shorter terms. This helps businesses in the immediate vicinity due to a greater turnover of cars that results in a better chance for their customers to find a parking space.’
Local traders disagree. Whereas Laura Place used to be a busy parking area, it is now virtually empty of cars. The nearby shopkeepers are incensed by what they see as a move that is putting off shoppers from coming to their part of Bath—not encouraging them. In response, the Independent Shops of Bath have started a petition calling for an end to the council’s increase of parking charges.
‘The price increases are large and unjustified especially at this time of year when post-Christmas people don’t have a great deal of disposable income,’ says Rajen Doshi, owner of A H Hale Chemist on Argyle Street. ‘It’s going to prevent people from coming to shop in Bath.’
‘For our customers they want to quickly park up and grab something—this will put them off,’ says Charlie Tanner of nearby John Moore Sports. He fears this increase will have a detrimental effect on local business.
Hitting the pavements to help support the petition in other parts of Bath, I rapidly got the best part of a hundred signatures from local shopkeepers who told a similar story.
‘Our customers ask us to post their purchases to them now, rather than drive into Bath to pick them up, because the parking is so expensive,’ said the manager of a doorknob shop in Broad Street. ‘That’s a pity because those customers used to pop into other shops when they came in and they aren’t doing that now.’
B&NES is seriously misunderstanding the dynamics of shopping in their city and as result of their fixation with expensive park-and-ride schemes are putting off many other customers who would frequent Bath’s independent shops.
Sunderland councillor Neville Padgett has splashed out over £1,000 a year on his weekly ‘litter tours’. The Sunderland City councillor has made the 51 mile journey of every road in his Washington East ward on the lookout for litter, based in his very own car.
The backbench councillor has shamelessly claimed £7,084.80 on travel expenses, accounting for 26 per cent of the total £26,000 bill in 2012/13. The spending doesn’t stop there though. Padgett is also responsible for a massive 52 per cent of the total subsistence allowance, claiming a whopping £4,026.47 of the £7k bill.
It’s not the first time he’s left Sunderland residents picking up his massive expenses bill. Since his 2010 election, Councillor Padgett has consistently claimed the greatest travel expenses, on top of his basic £8,000 a year allowance. His claims have left some colleagues disgruntled with one stating that‘he even claimed on Valentine’s Day’.
The councillor charges the taxpayer for food and drink claims for nearly every working day and for some Saturdays too. His expenses account for a third of the total amount claimed by all 75 councillors!
Here’s hoping that someone else – other than the taxpayers – picks up Councillor Padgett’s food and drink bill this Valentine’s Day.
We are seeking to recruit a National Grassroots Coordinator to oversee our growing network of activists across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
A full-time post based out of the TPA’s Westminster office, the job will involve carrying out the following duties:
The successful candidate should have the following qualities and abilities:
Salary negotiable, depending on experience.
Closing Date: Noon, Monday 17th February
Please email your CV and a covering letter to Emma Bennett via [email protected]
Last October, a TaxPayers’ Alliance report that I authored highlighted those councils in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire that were preventing residents from recording, blogging, and tweeting at council meetings. Eric Pickles then announced these rights would soon be enshrined in law. This is what he had to say:
A recent report from the Tax Payers’ Alliance revealed an alarming number of councils in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire who were still keeping democracy behind closed doors. Some councils had even banned local residents from recording, blogging and tweeting at council meetings. Ministers believe these councils are clinging to outdated analogue ideals in the face of a digital age.
Good news! Today the Local Audit and Accountability Act (where these rights are contained) received Royal Assent! When I attended a full council meeting of my local council recently, I was reminded that I couldn’t record proceedings. At the next meeting, I will enjoy using my new rights to record and report what’s happening in the council chamber.
For those councils who are already open, this new law will not affect them, but for those who have been determined to prevent residents from becoming citizen journalists, they are in for a rude awakening.
It is also appropriate that these new rights come into force this week, as this is my last week as National Grassroots Coordinator for the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA). Next Monday I take up a new role as Campaign Manager for The Freedom Association. It has been a wonderful journey since June 2009 when I first became involved with the TPA and set-up the Hull & East Riding Branch. I have met and have worked with some wonderful people over those years – many of whom are good friends. Rest assured though that I will not be giving up the fight for lower taxes. That’s in my DNA!
The TaxPayers’ Alliance in the South West set up their stall alongside local food and drink producers at Bath’s historic Farmers’ Market—the first in the country—situated under the beautiful Victorian glass and iron roof of what used to be the Green Park railway station in the centre of the city of Bath.
Local traders and shoppers were delighted to sign our petition calling for a cut in Cider Tax and specifically the Cider Duty Escalator, which puts the price of cider up by 2 per cent above the rate of inflation every year. Last year, following our successful , the Chancellor scrapped the Beer Duty Escalator. ‘He should do the same for cider,’ said one Bath market trader. ‘Cider making supports many small businesses round here.’ Almost a quarter of the price you pay for a pint of cider goes to the taxman.
‘Smaller cider makers producing below 7,000 litres a year have an exemption from tax,’ says Richard Hudson of Dick Willows, a local craft cider producer. ‘I would like to see that extended to all small alcoholic drinks producers, such as local fruit wine. It would encourage a lot of makers to set up their own businesses, but now they can’t face the hassle and cost of it all.’
Please sign our online petition here.
The Williams Commission has - under what has been described and urgent and radical proposals – recommended a reduction in the number of Welsh councils from 22 to between 10 and 12. The report offered several different options for the future landscape of Welsh local government, but all involved merging authorities.
Several organisations, including the Federation of Small Businesses, have welcomed the plans as it may bring an end to duplication and complexities in services and help boost the local economy with targeted service planning on a more regional basis.
The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) has already hit out at the commission’s findings claiming that Council Tax will have to be increased to meet service provision. The WLGA also claims that upfront costs will be £200m, much higher than the projected £100m stated in the report. Projected savings, however, could be anywhere between £60m-£80m a year and as the WLGA primarily exists to protect its members (councils and councillors) its criticisms are to be expected.
The commission should be commended for publishing such bold proposals. It is possible that some local identity maybe lost, but potential savings of up to £80m certainly should be examined in further detail.
Bath & North East Somerset Council (B&NES) has one of the biggest surpluses in parking charges and fines outside of London—£5.3 million in 2011/12. No one enjoys an unexpected fine or charge, but the high cost of parking fines are, more often than not, out of all proportion to the offences committed.
This leaves many feeling particularly aggrieved. This is largely due to the high cost of parking fines that are out of all proportion to the offences committed. We are, after all, mostly talking about drivers merely looking for spaces in which to park their car, while otherwise going about their lawful activities, and falling foul of local regulations. Especially so when compared to fines levied for other more serious offences. Recently, a Bath driver was fined £95 and given three penalty points for driving without due care and with an insecure load. That is not much above your average parking fine.
Because of this anomaly, the government is now looking at reducing the general cost of parking fines. Indeed, the Commons Transport Committee (CTC) recently said it was ‘hard to justify parking fines that are substantially more than the fines for more serious offences like speeding.’ Furthermore, their report said: ‘The Government should also work with the Mayor of London and local authorities outside London to identify ways in which the burden on the motorist of penalty charges for minor parking violations can be reduced.’
As for the effect of parking fines on local businesses, the CTC concluded: ‘It is unacceptable that local authorities set enforcement regimes that effectively force some companies to incur Penalty Charge Notices costing hundreds of thousands of pounds a year for carrying out their business.’
Commenting on the CTC’s recommendations, Transport minister Robert Goodwill said ‘These changes could see the end of CCTV being used for on-street parking, unnecessary yellow lines and the introduction of compulsory “grace periods” at the end of paid on-street parking.’
The reduction of the cost and issuing of parking fines would be welcomed by drivers who have, for too long, felt that town halls treat them as cash cows to be milked at any and every occasion