Generous mileage rates at Humberside PCC’s office
Nov 2013 11

Earlier this year, Humberside’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Matthew Grove, announced money saving agreements with East Riding of Yorkshire Council and North Lincolnshire Council. Under these agreements, Humberside Police would be able to use council refuelling depots, reducing the needs to use commercial forecourts. According to a press release published on the PCC’s website, “the arrangement has a number of benefits, with the Force accessing a cheaper fuel than is available through garage forecourts and in doing so providing a valuable Police presence at the council’s fuel facility both within and outside of normal working hours.”

This is a very sensible cost-cutting measure, and Mr Grove’s deputy, Paul Robinson, whose role is to develop partnership opportunities, is to be congratulated for securing the deals. Last week, however, I was looking through the travelling expenses claimed by both Mr Grove and Mr Robinson and discovered that whilst Mr Grove claims 45p per mile, Mr Robinson claims 65p per mile – 20p more than HMRC’s recommended rate. Continue Reading

‘Stop the Energy Swindle’ back in Colchester
Nov 2013 11

TaxPayers’ Alliance activists in Colchester braved the cold and the rain last Wedensday to protest against energy taxes. Passers-by stopped at our stall to pick up leaflets and sign a petition for our ‘Stop the Energy Swindle’ campaign.

At a time when many families are still struggling to pay the bills, green levies and other measures add £200 to the cost of the average household’s combined gas and electricity bill. This is expected to hit £620 by 2020. Green policy is the fastest growing influence on household energy bills. Continue Reading

EU wastes £6 billion in 2012
Nov 2013 07

Widespread austerity. Slashed budgets. Tough spending decisions. Not for the EU, it seems. This week, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) found that the European Union wasted almost £6 billion last year – 5 per cent of its total budget – on erroneous projects. This included providing funding for fraudulent and illegal schemes. Of the multi-billion pound waste, over £800 million was provided by British taxpayers. Continue Reading

From shared services to grazing sheep – the 201 ways councils could cut Council Tax
Nov 2013 06

Today we publish an innovative guide for local authorities, showing them how to cut waste, save money, reduce bureaucracy and ultimately cut taxes. Produced by Councillor Harry Phibbs, 201 Ways to Save Money in Local Government, contains advice on how council chiefs can make big savings in areas such as procurement and shared services. It also suggests more subtle changes – such as placing word limits on council documents and running competitions to find savings – that can save time and establish a culture of efficiency often lacking in too many town halls.

Click here to read the full 201 ways to save

The Government will shortly announce the local government settlement – containing the size of the grants councils receive from central government. At the same time that families are dealing with the competing pressures of rising prices and stagnant wages, local authorities shouldn’t add to that burden with Council Tax hikes. Instead, local politicians should look to cut out wasteful spending and consider removing non-essential services.

Highlights of how councils can save money:

  • Share services with neighbouring councils and other public sector bodies. “Joined up” government between the NHS and councils’ adult social care departments is particularly important. (Numbers 1 and 2)
  • Freeze recruitment and ensure that any new hires are approved by a Vacancy Management Panel chaired by the council leader. (Numbers 5 and 96)
  • Councils should consider whether it makes sense for a county council and its constituent districts to form a unitary authority. Councillors in Wiltshire have said this has saved a fortune through efficiency savings. (Number 115)
  • Combine the post of Finance Director and Chief Executive. (Number 71)
  • Offer an interactive smartphone application which allows residents to access services and report issues such as a missed bin collection or broken street lights. It costs £1.50 less to process a smartphone enquiry compared to telephone contacts. (Number 183)
  • Investigate savings through bulk purchasing rather than using endless different suppliers at various prices for the same product. (Number 186)
  • Publish corporate credit card use online, in real time and allow armchair auditors help cut out wasteful and frivolous spending. (Number 134)
  • Don’t inflate the cost of pay-offs by including gagging clauses. (Number 142)
  • End automatic pay rises for staff. (Number 176)

Other notable suggestions include:

  • Where appropriate, use cattle and sheep to graze on council land rather than spending money on grass cutting. (Number 70)
  • Set maximum word limits on the length of reports submitted by officers. Long reports that nobody reads are a waste of officer time and a means of avoiding accountability for spending. (Number 98)
  • Stop providing free meals for councillors. (Number 154)
  • Provide council tenants with rewards for carrying out their own repairs. (Number 180)
  • Scrap clothing allowances for mayors, their spouses or any other staff. (Number 182)

Jonathan Isaby, Political Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:

“Far too often we hear unimaginative councillors insisting that they have no choice but to raise Council Tax and increase the burden on already hard-pressed families. But there are literally hundreds of ways in which local authorities can save money before even thinking about increasing the Council Tax.

“201 Ways to Save Money in Local Government should be essential reading for anyone in local government and indeed anyone interested in holding to account their local representatives. In future, any civic leader claiming that raising the Council Tax is their only option had better be able to prove that they have implemented or at least considered implementing every single idea we are putting before them today. If not, they won’t be able to look their residents in the eye and insist that they have exhausted the possibilities for saving money.”

Time for tax transparency on energy bills
Nov 2013 05

We’ve always campaigned for greater transparency about how much we all really pay in tax: far too often the taxes and duties and levies we pay are hidden and all we know is the total price that we have paid for something, inclusive of all taxes.

Energy bills are a case in point, with the green taxes which successive governments have introduced accounting for an ever higher proportion of our households bills – but few people realise this fact.

All that could be about to change, thanks to a cross-party group of peers.

Tomorrow (Wednesday 6th November) the House of Lords is debating the latest stage of the Energy Bill and a new clause is being proposed by Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, Lord Marlesford, Lord Campbell-Savours and the Bishop of Chester which reads as follows:

Transparency for consumers
The power under section 130 to modify energy supply licences may be exercised so as to make provision requiring a licence holder to provide information on a consumer bill that breaks down the total cost charged to the consumer by showing each of—

(a)   the amount that goes to Government environmental levies or programmes;
(b)   the amount that goes to administration costs;
(c)   the amount that goes to wholesale energy costs;
(d)   the amount for raw energy costs; and
(e)   any other categories of cost.

This would mean that consumers would be armed with the real knowledge of where their money was going whenever those dreaded bills hit the doormat. Let’s hope the House of Lords backs this eminently sensible measure.

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