Buckinghamshire County Council’s cabinet has just recommended just under two per cent increase in Council Tax next year.
I reported a couple of months ago that the council was undertaking a consultation giving residents the option of a two per cent increase, a four per cent increase, or a five per cent increase, but not a freeze. Just under half of those who responded favoured four or five per cent as the council said any additional cash raised above two per cent would be ring fenced and spend on the county’s roads. Without a clear mandate, cabinet members did not feel they could proceed with a referendum, which they say would have cost £300,000.
The leader of the council, Cllr Martin Tett, said the consultation did not allow residents the option of a freeze because of the statutory obligations the council has, such as offering every child a school place and it’s duty to look after vulnerable children and adults. I find this rather odd as every county council and unitary authority has the same obligations and yet many are still freezing Council Tax. He also commented that he was disappointed more residents had not approved of increases of four or five per cent. But with people struggling with rising prices and stagnant wages, the fact that they cannot afford a Council Tax increase should not come as a suprise .
By not giving them the option of a freeze, Cllr Tett and his colleagues have just held a loaded consultation. Although residents were allowed to leave comments, because a freeze was not presented to them, we do not know how many of them would have gone for that option. For consultations to be credible, all options have to be on the table. It was very disappointing this was not done in Buckinghamshire.
We held a ‘Stamp Out Stamp Duty’ street stall in Beverley in September and we got a great response from local people. We were in Beverley again yesterday promoting the campaign and once again the response was positive.
Half of buyers in the East Riding are already paying an average £1,600 in Stamp Duty, and this is set to rise to two-thirds by 2017 paying an average of £2,200. This ever increasing burden is making it difficult for local people to get on the property ladder and also difficult for those with growing families who are looking to buy a larger home.
If you haven’t done so already, please write to your MP. It only takes a minute and makes a real difference.
Cardiff and Anglesey councils are proposing monthly collections of non-recyclable rubbish. Carmarthenshire and Monmouthshire currently restrict the amount of waste collected from residents and now Swansea Council says it is going to limit the number of black bags residents are allowed to put out for collection.
Although the council has formally not made up its mind on the issue, and the cabinet are discussing it this week, the move appears to be a foregone conclusion. The council is already outlining the dates of publicity campaigns and the implementation dates.
Just like those other councils in Wales who are reducing their rubbish collection services, Swansea will not be reducing the amount of Council Tax local people have to pay. The council claims it is all to do with statutory recycling targets, however figures obtained by Media Wales highlight that recycling rates in Swansea currently stand at 52 per cent, which currently meets Welsh Government targets.
The council has said there will be exceptions for large families, houses of multiple occupation, and in areas where there are physical restrictions, however for everyone else woe betide you if you generate more than three bin bags worth of rubbish every fortnight. Those who fail to comply with the new arrangements when they are introduced will face formal enforcement action.
If councils want residents to recycle more, they should constructively engage with them and make it as easy as possible. When will politicians ever learn that draconian measures like this only serve to alienate the public? Council taxpayers are customers. They don’t deserve threats.
Salisbury supporters gathered on a chilly December day near Poultry Cross—a medieval 15th century market cross—in Butcher Row in central Salisbury to call on the government to Stamp Out Stamp Duty. In Wiltshire, three in every ten people buying a flat or house pay the 3% rate or more. By 2017, that will rise to half!
‘Stamp Duty is a punitive tax that is long overdue an intelligent re-think,’ says Salisbury supporter Paul Cunningham. ‘It unfairly penalises first time buyers and the elderly, and acts as a drag on housing transactions and the mobility and economic benefit that are linked to them. Having increased 15-fold since 1992, it is essentially an outdated piece of pocket-picking that needs urgent overhaul.’
Join our campaign and send a letter to your local MP calling for a cut in Stamp Duty.
Our ‘Stamp Out Stamp Duty‘ campaign has been out on the road again this week. I joined local supporters in Sutton Coldfield on Wednesday for a street stall and yesterday I also joined supporters in the Chancellor’s own constituency, in Wilmslow. And ahead of the Autumn Statement next Thursday there’s still more to come.
Tomorrow we are in Camberley, meeting near the entrance to The Mall, High Street, Camberley, at 12.oo noon. Next Monday, 2 December, we are in Salisbury. Supporters are meeting at the Poultry Cross, Butcher Row, at 12.00 noon. The following day, Tuesday 3 December, we are in Beverley. Again we are meeting at 12.oo noon and our stall will be situated in Saturday Market, near the junction with Sow Hill Road & Ladygate. If you are in any of those places on those dates, please come and say hello, and if you can spare a few minutes to help us, please let me know.
Finally, if you haven’t already written to your MP, please go to StampOutStampDuty.Org and follow the instructions. It only takes a minute and makes a real difference.
On Monday TaxPayers’ Alliance supporters brought our Stop the Energy Swindle campaign to Wrexham. I would not only like to thank our supporters for turning out, but also the local residents for taking their time to sign our petition. The event was part of our campaign to inform local residents and business owners of a big reason why their energy bills have sky-rocketed over the past number of years – green taxes.
The event in Wrexham demonstrated the harsh and very real impact of green taxes upon individuals and their communities. Shop keepers expressed concerns at the burden of energy bills and their worries that continuous increases could actually result in them having to cease trading. Whilst speaking with shoppers many seemed worried about the levels of fuel poverty and questioned how they might cope this year, especially as snow has already stated falling in some parts. Worried that green taxes will cause increase the average family bill to rise by over £200 some pensioners even suggested sacrificing their winter fuel allowance just to have an overall reduction in taxation. Reports of people dying because of the impact of cold weather conditions were vivid in many peoples’ minds.
It’s time Government changed its disastrous energy policy. Subsidies for uneconomic forms of renewable energy while guaranteeing big profits for energy firms is having disastrous consequences on family bills. Instead the government really needs to provide a lifeline to the people of towns like Wrexham by leaving more cash in their pockets, ensuring that people can afford to actually heat their homes in the build-up to the festive period.
On a cold and crisp day at the heart of the University of Bristol, students gathered to support our Cut Cider Tax campaign. They collected signatures for our petition calling on a cut in the Cider Duty Escalator, which automatically adds duty of 2 per cent above inflation to a pint of cider each year.
‘Britain has a proud history in beer and cider production and for centuries has been an integral part of our heritage,’ says Bristol student Charlie Brandon. ‘While we should take pride in the fact that many of the major commercial brands are produced in this country we should also strive to protect our local producers who provide us with a greater variety of choice of high quality cider. A tax cut will allow these producers to provide this quality and variety at competitive prices, and therefore ensure their survival.’
After the signature collecting, students celebrated a successful action day with a few pints of cider at the White Bear, a favourite pub with students. Local cider enthusiasts should also visit the nearby Bristol Cider Shop on Christmas Steps, which sells a number of local and speciality ciders, including Burrow Hill Somerset Cider and Gwatkin Old Rats Tail, not for the faint-hearted apparently! I stuck to regional favourite Thatchers…
Please sign our online petition here
Thanet District Council has dug itself into a financial hole. It allowed Transeuropa Ferries to operate for three years from the council owned port of Ramsgate without paying berthing fees – they disguised it as a “loan against invoice”. Transeuropa then went bankrupt (in April), leaving their (£3.4 m) bills unpaid (and uninsured against) and the council with a port with no ferry operator.
In September the council paid consultants to market Ramsgate port, but no operators came forward. That is still the case. The council are considering options for alternative uses for the port, but really want a new ferry operator. One alternative use is as a calling port for cruises – maybe not very practical taking into account the small size of the port and the narrow channels that have to constantly dredged just to allow ferries, not to mention the Dover cruise terminals just down the coast. A meeting on the subject descended into chaos when one councillor insisted on filming the meeting (which the TPA campaigns to allow), for which he was eventually ejected. The meeting then rejected a suggestion to put the port on the market.
That is not the end of Thanet’s financial worries. They now owe Kent County Council another £2.7 m for their share of a new link road built to serve a business park, jointly owned by Thanet District Council and East Kent Opportunities Limited Liabilities Partnership (EKO). The business park has so far failed to attract enough firms to occupy space on the 92 acre plot. Thanet’s £2.7m contribution was due this month, but has been deferred until March next year – with interest of about £50,000. Plans by EKO to boost the site by adding shops, community facilities, a car showroom and 550 houses were rejected by Thanet District Council last month. The only way they can meet their obligations will mean dipping into their cash reserves.
A report by four independent members of the authority’s own Standards Committee says that there is a “siege mentality” and “public mistrust”, and raises concern at the amount of bad behaviour and personal attacks by councillors. A member of the public has also been thrown out of a meeting for filming. Clearly Thanet Council badly needs to put its house in order – and fast. There is a danger central government could step in to prevent further catastrophes. And ultimately the bill for these financial problems will only end up in one place, the doormat of local residents.
Wrexham, in North Wales, has seen over the years an influx of hi-tech business and the opening of a new university. It has the second largest industrial Estate in the UK which accommodates around 300 businesses, employing 7000 staff, and creates a livelihood for many who live in Wrexham and North East Wales.
It’s not just families that are being hurt by green taxes – the businesses that provide much needed employment are being affected too, and if we want greater prosperity and more secure jobs for the people of North Wales, these green taxes have to go.
On Monday 25 November, I will be joining other TPA supporters in Wrexham who are holding a ‘Stop the Energy Swindle’ street stall. We are meeting on Hope Street, Wrexham, LL11 1BB at 11.00 am.
If you are in Wrexham on Monday, please come and say hello, and if you haven’t done so already, please write to your MP using the website EnergySwindle.Org.
For the people of Wrexham and the surrounding areas of Llangollen, Ruthin, Mold and Rossett, where I once lived, now is the time to support the local campaign and oppose this Energy Swindle.
It’s been a number of weeks since Cardiff Council’s proposal for monthly bin collections was first aired. The proposal is designed to force the residents of Cardiff to recycle more and to cut expenditure on landfill (and in particular fines levied by the EU because of landfill) , which, in theory, are positive steps. However the draconian measures will lead to one of the most essential front line services being slashed rather than positively helping people to recycle more. Many of the hundreds of people that have signed the petition so far have expressed their dismay at the arrogance of councillors from all parties on this issue.
The council also want to introduce fines for contaminated rubbish. Both this and the possibility of having to wait two months for a collection if you simply miss your allotted collection day were serious concerns raised by those we have spoken to. They believe regular collections not only make the city look tidy, they also ensures that problems of vermin are kept in check and cases of fly-tipping are limited.
Fly-Tipping Action Wales was set up to help educate communities and combat issues of fly tipping. Their website claims that currently there are over 36,000 cases of fly-tipping each year which cost Welsh taxpayers over £2.1m to clear up. However what is even more damning, is that Fly-Tipping Action Wales (which has Cardiff Council as a partner) also claims that household waste is the main contributor in cases of fly-tipping. It is totally understood that there are legal avenues that can be taken when trying to resolve matters of fly-tipping but surely costly legal proceedings are the last path anyone would want to take?
We hope common sense will prevail and that the people of Cardiff will have their fortnightly collections maintained.
In our manifesto, published before the general election in 2010, we championed elected Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs). Police authorities were outdated, hardly anyone knew who served on them, and they lacked accountability. Although it is fair to say that the electorate didn’t go to the polls in droves to vote for their PCC, at least you now know who to go to when you want to have your say on policing in your area. Many of them have also driven down costs and waste in a way the old police authorities could never have done.
Unfortunately though, some PCCs appear to be costing taxpayers more than they should. In just over a year from when he first took office in November 2012, Tony Hogg, the PCC for Devon and Cornwall, has spent nearly £700,000 on bringing in consultants and agency staff to handle the change.‘The transition between Police Authority and Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner [OPCC] has involved a great deal of new policy and governance work,’ explains its chief executive, ‘and it was only right and proper that we brought in, for a limited time, people with specific expertise in some areas.’This does not impress the chairman of the Police Federation who quite rightly points out that the whole process was sold to the taxpayers of Devon and Cornwall as ‘cost neutral.’
‘We’re not here to criticise [the PCC] but the apparent spiralling costs of the office are concerning,’ he says. ‘What value is it adding to the force—or is it even value for money? At a time when officers are under real constraints, there are some question marks.’ In the meantime, some 500 officers have been cut from frontline policing across the region.
This criticism comes hot on the heels of further complaints of the new Devon and Cornwall PCC spending more on backroom staff than the old police authority. Seven more desk jobs have been created in the last year at an extra cost of £105,000—an increase of almost 12% on the budget of the previous year’s expenditure by the Devon and Cornwall Police Authority.
We pay our taxes to the police to be protected on the frontline, not to fund bloated bureaucracies – something Mr Hogg needs to reflect on.
It was a cold day yesterday in East Yorkshire, with a wind chill factor of -2C, but that didn’t stop TPA supporters from hitting the streets of Driffield and Hornsea to promote our ‘Stop the Energy Swindle’ campaign.
“If the Government wants to push unpopular green taxes, they should do so openly in a way we can hold then to account, not through a back door levy on energy bills forcing thousands of people into fuel poverty”, said local supporter Geoff Pickering. His view was echoed by Tom Morris. “With the winters progressively getting worse”, Tom said “how are we supposed to pay extortionate prices for our heating bills?”
Many people we spoke to not only have to pay for the large subsidies on their bills, they also have wind farms near their homes. “We feel helpless”, said one lady, “but at least this is something we can do.” She wasn’t the only person to say something similar. Many people in East Yorkshire feel a beautiful part of the country has been blighted by too many wind farms and feel they don’t have a voice.
If you haven’t written to your MP, it’s not too late to make a difference. Go to EnergySwindle.org, put in your postcode and click go. You will then see a letter addressed to your MP. Fill in your name and contact details and click submit. Done! It really is as easy as that. A minute of your time can make a huge difference to your energy bills!