In May I will have been at the TPA for a year. In that year, I have not seen anything as disgraceful as in today’s Daily Mail. Poole Council used legislation, written and sold to us on the idea it would help track terrorists, to spy on a family they suspected of living outside a school catchment area.
The Regulation of Investigative Powers Act 2000 was introduced on the grounds that it would boost national security. Poole Council, being a creative sort, went well over their remit by using the powers to snoop on families. They monitored this unnamed family for three weeks, with intentions to stop them sending their children to a good school if they lived outside the catchment area.
In an almost comical scene, the Mail describes how council officers wrote reports as if they were in a cheap Spooks rip-off. On your buck, council hatchetmen kept detailed notes, going as far as to record when the lights were on in the family home. To add insult to injury, we don’t even know how long Poole Council will keep the family’s information and what they will use it for.
This time it was Poole Council spying on people to see they send their children to the ‘right’ school. What will they use it on next? But clearly this is a worrying trend. East Hampshire Council announced this week they will be phoning people who leave ‘too much’ rubbish outside to ask them why, what are they throwing away, etc. Basildon Council sent bureaucrats up and down streets to go through people’s rubbish to see if any recyclable goods were being thrown away. Inch by inch these Town Hall bureaucrats are invading our private lives – and we’re paying for it year after year in ever-increasing Council Tax.
Someone has to carry the can for this gross invasion of privacy. Please contact Poole’s Councillors to ask them to investigate this obscene breach of privacy. Here are the contact details:
Cllr Peter Adams – [email protected]
Cllr Jeff Allen – [email protected]
Cllr Elaine Atkinson – [email protected]
Cllr Michael Brooke – [email protected]
Cllr David Brown – [email protected]
Cllr Chris Bulteel – [email protected]
Cllr Les Buden – [email protected]
Cllr Judy Butt – [email protected]
Cllr Graham Chandler – [email protected]
Cllr Brian Clements – [email protected]
Cllr Donald Collier – [email protected]
Cllr Graham Curtis – [email protected]
Cllr Carole Deas – [email protected]
Cllr Xena Dion – [email protected]
Cllr Philip Eades – [email protected]
Cllr Carol Evans – [email protected]
Cllr David Gillard – [email protected]
Cllr Roger Gregory – [email protected]
Cllr May Haines – [email protected]
Cllr Joyce Lavender – [email protected]
Cllr Brian Leverett – [email protected]
Cllr Daphne Long – [email protected]
Cllr Peter Maiden – [email protected]
Cllr Daniel Martin – [email protected]
Cllr Graham Mason – [email protected]
Cllr Christopher Matthews – [email protected]
Cllr Charles Meachin – [email protected]
Cllr Guy Montrose – [email protected]
Cllr Sandra Moore – [email protected]
Cllr Ron Parker – [email protected]
Cllr Michael Plummer – [email protected]
Cllr John Rampton – [email protected]
Cllr Neil Sorton – [email protected]
Cllr Ann Stribley – [email protected]
Cllr Tony Trent – [email protected]
Cllr Janet Walton – [email protected]
Cllr Mike White – [email protected]
Cllr Michael Wilkins – [email protected]
Cllr Graham Wilson – [email protected]
Cllr Lindsay Wilson – [email protected]
Cllr Tony Woodcock – [email protected]
Do please contact these councillors and ask them who is responsible for issuing the orders that sent council bureaucrats to spy on people. Ask them how many times since 2000 the RIPA has been used to spy on people. It’s also worthwhile that you ask your council whether they have been spying on you like Poole Council has.
Finally, as a philosophical note, this debacle reminded me of this famous quote from Proudhon:
“"To be GOVERNED is to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so. To be GOVERNED is to be at every operation, at every transaction noted, registered, counted, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, prevented, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, drilled, fleeced, exploited, monopolized, extorted from, squeezed, hoaxed, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, vilified, harassed, hunted down, abused, clubbed, disarmed, bound, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, derided, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality."
- P. J. Proudhon, General Idea of Revolution in the Nineteenth Century
I’m starting to think he had a point…
I suppose I ought to declare an interest in this story – I not only love lower, simpler taxes, I love chocolate teacakes. Even if I didn’t, though, this would stand out as a ridiculous example of the problems a complex tax system brings.
The very fact that there has been a costly wrangle going on for years about the relative tax status of the chocolate teacake as regards to being a biscuit or a "traditional bakery product" should be a compelling sign that we have an overly complex tax system. The "brief" summary on the BBC web site takes over 160 words and a 2 by 3 tabulated explanation. Unfortunately, it’s not just a laughable tale about a tasty product, it’s been a very costly saga for all involved – consumers, Marks and Spencer’s and the taxpayer.
One interesting thing to note is that the headline is "Teacake set to cost taxman £3.5m". This is utterly wrong – this judgement won’t cost the taxman a penny. He will continue to receive his wages and unjustified performance bonuses regardless. The only people who have lost out in this are you and I – people who were wrongly charged tax when they bought teacakes and who have footed the bill for HMRC’s lengthy legal defence which they bizarrely continued on dubious grounds against M&S even after they had repaid supermarkets.
If we had a simple tax code – and tax officials who didn’t view taxpayers’ money as rightfully theirs to cling onto and splash about on lawyers on their every whim – none of this would have needed to happen, taxpayers wouldn’t have had to foot a massive legal bill and, most importantly, we could all have enjoyed cheaper chocolate teacakes.
"NHS managers in the Potteries needed to cut waiting lists. So they paid £10m for 10,000 minor operations at a private hospital in Burton. But they forgot to ask local people what they thought.
Now – two years and £4m later – they’ve still only persuaded 200 patients to travel for treatment… at a cost of £20,000 each!"
Read about the whole saga here.
A new study by the TaxPayers’ Alliance has discovered that the cost of crime in London in 2006-07 was a staggering £3 billion, equivalent to £400 for every person in London. Using Home Office calculations to take into account the economic and social cost of various types of crime, TPA researchers were able to provide an in-depth breakdown of the cost of different types of crime borough-by-borough.
Using the estimated costs of different types of crime gives an appropriate weighting to crimes such as violent or sexual offences that are more serious and more worrying to the public than petty theft from a shop.
The report reveals a wide inequality in the cost of crime among different boroughs, ranging from Westminster (£154.8m, or £620 per capita) and Islington (£109m, or £590 per head) to Harrow (£50m, or £235 per head) and Richmond (£39, or £215 per head).
Download the full report (PDF)
Matthew Sinclair, Policy Analyst at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:
"Ordinary Londoners, particularly those in the poorest boroughs, pay the price for high crime rates every day. Whether we have been victims of crime, are afraid to go out at night or are just paying ever more to protect and insure ourselves, crime has big economic, emotional and human costs for us all. We urgently need politicians to end the excuses, show real civic leadership and enable the police to take action and replicate the radical reductions in crime seen in other cities such as New York."
Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:
“Crime is set to be the big issue in the Mayoral elections. Londoners are looking for a Mayor who will tackle the crime epidemic in the Capital. The Government should devolve full powers over the Metropolitan Police to City Hall so whoever is Mayor after May 1st has the power to sort out this menace.”
Worcestershire County Council certainly haven’t been shy of spending in recent years. In our latest reports on local government expenditure we found:
On top of this, apparently they’ve also recently spent around £800,000 on refurbishing their own offices.
The Worcester News reported this morning that campaigners have lost their battle to keep this institution open. Judith Hall, a mother of one of the severely disabled men who uses the centre regularly told the paper:
"This is what keeps our sons alive, my son is furious. No-one has asked him what he wants. This is about separating him from his friends, from the carers who have taken years to come to understand him and his needs. I think at best you could describe this decision as discrimination. At worst it is neglect."
One Councillor Tucker added:
"We are throwing away a very valuable asset. I’m really, really distressed."
It’s a terrible shame for those connected with this centre that
it has been deemed unsustainable, and closed to make an £85k-per-year saving whilst the County Council choose to lavish money elsewhere.
Once again, here we see the most vulnerable in society lose privileges and suffer, whilst local government seemingly refuses to tighten it’s belt.
Those at Worcestershire County Council need to reassess, and realise that the first priority for our tax pounds is to provide frontline services – particularly to those who need them most – and not to top up the pensions and salaries of local government staff.