The TaxPayers’ Alliance believes that a healthy and vibrant local press ensures proper scrutiny of local authorities. When councils use taxpayers’ cash to distribute their own publications they create direct and unfair competition for local media, harming genuine accountability. They also cost taxpayers’ money and savings need to be made.
The Department for Communities and Local Goverenment have produced a Publicity Code. It contains many sensible suggestions for how councils should conduct themselves when it comes to publicity. Unfortunately, many are ignoring the code of practice and are wasting taxpayers’ money on rival newspapers, or making political points by plastering posters all over town.
Our response, which can be found here, calls for an end to free-sheets so that local journalists can play their part in keeping local politicians honest. We encourage everyone to respond to the three-question consultation, which you can do by clicking here.
A Cornish supporter points out a distinct lack of value when it comes to their parish council. Feock Parish Council has one of the highest annual precepts in Cornwall, at more than £100,000, but this year the parish council has budgeted a staggering £73,320—nearly three quarters of its annual expenditure—on staff salaries and administration. The council currently employs a Parish clerk and two assistants. Staff costs in nearby parishes are a fraction of the levels in Feock and they employ clerks on a part-time or voluntary basis. Continue Reading
After waiting for a week for a full statement from East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) about the fiasco in Bridlington, the statement from Alan Menzies, Director of Planning and Economic Regeneration, printed in Saturday’s Yorkshire Post, was a huge disappointment. He said the council was unlikely to compulsory purchase the existing Tesco site, which we knew already. He also reiterated the line that the Tesco development was part of a much wider plan, which is also untrue. The existing Area Action Plan (AAP), which is now a planning document, hinges on Tesco moving from its existing site to the coach park next door. It can’t just be amended without going through the planning process again and, if Mr Menzies thinks Tesco will allow another supermarket to easily be built next door, then he is deluded. Tesco will fight the proposal and Bridlington does not need a second supermarket.
As I said last week, the council does not have a Plan B, and millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money has been wasted. Parts of Bridlington are derelict as a result of council blunders, and those officers, councillors, and consultants responsible for the mess must be held to account. Continue Reading
The TaxPayer’s Alliance Bumper Books of Government Waste helped set the national agenda on how Whitehall and local councils spend and sometimes squander our money. I’m hoping my new book on the national debt, just out, will do the same on our deficit. It’s astonishing how commentators defend our being in the red without much of a clue on how we got here this time and what happened to governments who trod this path before.
So how bad is the national debt?
One of the problems facing us is that people find it hard to think in abstract ledger columns, and billions are frankly sums that only Dr Who can imagine. So let’s try to put both the debt and the deficit into terms that readers can better handle, and can also perhaps more easily remember for debates down the pub and when writing letters to the newspaper. Continue Reading
On Tuesday, when I wrote about Bridlington’s regeneration scheme hitting the rocks, I said I would post an update when East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) decided on its promised “full and frank response”. Well, we are still waiting. Despite knowing for a week that Tesco had decided to pull out of the scheme, and with an estimated £25 million spent, the council is still searching for what to do and say. This tells you more than whatever spin they eventually come up with. The failure to sign-up Tesco before basing their entire plans on them moving has dealt a serious and potentially fatal blow to those plans and confirms that Plan B does not and never did exist.
I spent some time in Bridlington yesterday to take a look for myself why the scheme is so unpopular with many local people and to look at the social costs of the decisions made by bungling bureaucrats, councillors and consultants. Continue Reading