Jan 2008 14

Barnet_14108_002This morning a group of dedicated low-tax campaigners descended on Barnet County Courthouse to support TPA activist Rick Stratton in his bid to get justice over his council tax bills.  Rick’s case revolves around Hertsmere Council demanding council tax on a property they declared as “unfit for human habitation”, a sum running into the thousands of pounds Rick just can’t afford.  I doubt that even our over-paid council bureaucrats could afford a lump sum payment were they issued it, despite how overpaid they are.  But, in the current system, it’s one rule for them and one rule for the taxpayer.  The Council declared the property unfit for human habitation and yet still want thousands of pounds in tax from Rick.

Barnet_14108_005Our morning began in a rather sinister fashion.  Literally as soon as we left the station, we were met by a couple of police officers (see left).  Apparently they got a tip off from someone about the protest and it ‘necessitated’ a continuous police presence throughout.  What rubbish!  The police surely have better things to do than marshal a dozen activists politely protesting against the injustices handed out by the greedy state.  Needless to say, passers by were less than amused that we were being monitored by the police, which brought us even more attention and support.

Barnet_14108_004 In another shocking twist, Rick told us after his case was heard that the court had switched judges at the last moment, apparently aware of the protest outside.  As they gave no reason why, we can only assume the first judge would have seen sense and rectified the huge bill imposed by Hertsmere Council.  Moreover, the court authorities barred a journalist from the Hendon Times from sitting in on the proceedings.  So first they had the police on permanent surveillance of our protest, next they conducted the proceedings in secret.  Some democracy…

Rick here explains the result, and it isn’t pleasant:

So, pay your council tax, year on year – no matter how much it goes up – or the council take your house!!   It’s that simple and ruthless.

Barnet_14108_006On a brighter note, all throughout the morning passers-by came to join our protest, one gentleman demanding to hold a placard in support of lower taxes.  An elderly couple joined us for around an hour, boosting our numbers and showing that although a TPA protest may start off as a humble event, it will end with more people participating, taking notice and spreading the word for lower taxes.

By the end of the morning we had distributed well over 250 TPA leaflets, as well as attracting enough car ‘honks’ to show overwhelming support for lower taxes.  The politicos in Westminster may think tax cuts aren’t popular.  But they should do what I did today and go and meet the people and get their views.  The people are saying with one loud, clear voice that they are overtaxed and are becoming increasingly impatient as our politicians fail to act.

Barnet_14108_001 But it is one thing knowing the virtue of our arguments; we still could have had more people out in support.  Never forget the value our action has to our other activists.  Yes we are always promoting the low-tax cause.  But we are also standing with people the state is trying to bleed dry.  There’s a human element to our action that reinforces our campaigns.  Put simply: tax cuts ease the burden the state imposes on ordinary people who just want the government to back off and let them live their lives. 

Here Rick tells us why you should get involved in our campaign.  If you want to organise a protest or leaflet action day in your borough, contact me today so we can prepare and invite people to come along.  So until the next time we take to the streets to build the majority for lower taxes, I shall leave you with Rick’s wise words…

Jan 2008 14
Man sprouts twigs while waiting for action

For taxpayers the New Year has brought no good news on the Crock. Brown and Darling are still dithering in the headlights, while we remain on the hook for over £50bn of loans and guarantees. Hopes of a cost-free exit diminish by the day.

There is now no chance of the Virgin or Olivant "bids" working for us- they have been unable to raise the £10-15bn they claimed, and as we’ve blogged before, that wouldn’t have been enough to pay off taxpayers anyway.

In an attempt to bridge the gap, Goldman Sachs was hired by the Treasury to come up with alternative finance, but if the leaks are to be believed, they’ve failed. Restructuring the £25bn taxpayer loan as a bond issue, which would then be sold to private investors, would only work with a taxpayer guarantee, or a prohibitively expensive "credit wrap" from a commercial insurer. Which gets us precisely nowhere.

Meanwhile the raw meat eating hedge fund players who bought up c 20% of NR’s equity stock back in September and October, are threatening to sue us when we nationalise the bank without compensation. They reckon we should pay them around £4 per share, which is the Bank’s notional book value. Just to highlight how ludicrous that is, here’s the share price chart:

They’re also attempting to stop the existing NR directors "succumbing to political pressure", in particular by selling off assets to repay the Bank of England loans.

And on that point, the Rock last week did indeed sell a £2.2bn mortgage portfolio to Tony Blair’s new employer, JP Morgan. These were well secured "equity release mortgages", and among the Bank’s most high quality assets. Yes, they made a £50m profit against their book value, but we can understand why the shareholders are concerned they may have been sold off cheap.

Taxpayers should be concerned about exactly the same thing. As we all surely understand by now, the Bank only remains in business because of our loans and guarantees. And when we finally have to pick up the pieces, we do not want to find all the Canalettos and the Georgian silver have already been flogged in a fire sale.

The end-game is now clear. It’s a state managed work-out. Darling has to nationalise the Bank without compensation, repay depositors, sell off the assets, and close down operations (as set out eg by Anatole Kaletsky two months ago).

One reason he’s been holding back is that he doesn’t want the embarrassment of adding NR’s £100bn liabilities to the National Debt. According to this morning’s Telegraph, he’s therefore pursuing some kind of partial nationalisation.

That would be a serious mistake. Not only are the National Debt figures a fiction anyway (see many previous blogs), we’ve had  more than enough confusion already, which has cost taxpayers a fortune. Simplicity, transparency, and tough decisions are what’s needed now.

We learned over the weekend at least he’s appointed someone to run the nationalised bank- ex-Lloyds head Ron Sandler. So now he just needs to pull the trigger.

And the longer he leaves it, the more it’s going to cost us.

Jan 2008 10

Quango Advantage West Midlands have decided to recruit a new bureaucrat to their ranks at a cost of up to £37,000.

The ‘Cultural Manager’ will manage the ‘Cultural Programme’ which includes the ambiguous ‘Cultural Olympiad’ – something I’m sure we won’t know how we lived without…

There’s little doubt that all the ‘relationship building’ this involves will be too much for one person to cope with alone, and so we can most probably add the extra costs of assistants and administrators to the initial £37,000.

The job description states:

  “It’s a challenging role with a strong emphasis on strategy, so we’re looking for a background in successfully developing and integrating new policies”.Meeting2

This certainly seems to herald more strategy meetings and costly consultations AWM-style, with little to no involvement from the general public. 

The West Midlands is already swamped with quangos who all claim to be working to a cultural agenda, and at this rate they will be competing with one another! Culture West Midlands, Tourism West Midlands, Screen West Midlands, Arts Council England: West Midlands, MLA West Midlands…etc etc.

Another ‘Cultural Manager’ is surely the last thing this region needs?

Jan 2008 10

According to yesterday’s Express and Star 12 council staff at Black Country housing company, Sandwell Homes, were given “mind therapy sessions” costing the taxpayer thousands of pounds.

The report claims that the one-to-one therapy sessions for maintenance and housing managers encouraged employees to share their thoughts on a “search for excellence”.

The therapy was given by Richard Elwell, who runs ‘Ethical Influence’. He has trained with Michael Breen, who in turn is known for his work with TV hypnotist Paul McKenna.

Each of the staff were treated to five sessions of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), made popular by Mckenna, each lasting an hour and a half. Elwell insists that there was no element of hypnosis:

Hypnosis “It is merely conversation, asking them how they would like to do better. It’s a search for excellence”.

Despite this sounding like something managers can discuss amongst themselves or with their superiors completely gratis, the newspaper reports that One Essex NLP practitioner charges £55 for an hour and a half. If Elwell’s prices are similar the taxpayer is looking at a bill of nearly £3,500, and yet the tangible benefits are far from clear.

This is another example of public servants indulging themselves at our expense. Taxpayers’ should not be expected to pay the extortionate fees of someone brought in to practice something that sounds a lot like psychobabble to the rest of us.

Whether these sessions included Paul McKenna-style hypnosis or not, one thing is clear – that this money was not put to good, practical use. Instead Sandwell Homes have siphoned money from the public purse to experiment with the sort of newfangled and questionable middle management coaching that yields little and costs a lot.

Local residents pay their taxes for services, not psychology.

Jan 2008 10

Stuff_from_the_tpa_camera_023What a great start to the New Year the TaxPayers’ Alliance is having.  Over the Christmas and New Year period, when we publicised our Christmas Tax and Non-Job reports, we managed to recruit 35 new activists.  Activists differ from supporters because they are committed to recruiting, campaigning and promoting the TPA and lower taxes, voluntarily giving their time and energy to the cause.  Our activists are the seeds of our future grassroots growth, so thank you to all those who have signed up as TPA activists.  If you wish to sign up as a TPA Activist you can register here, contribute or contact me directly to get involved.

One activist in particular became our 500th TPA Activist.  His name is Kevin Taylor from Omagh and is busy recruiting to form a branch in County Tyrone.  Congratulations to Kevin on helping us reach this milestone in our grassroots development.  Now it’s up to our TPA activists to get recruiting so that we can congratulate our 1000th activist in the not too distant future.  Just think, if every activist recruited only one activist, we could reach 1000 activists in no time at all!

The Christmas season also didn’t stop our activists recruiting in our 10 Friends Challenge.  Evelyn Brazier, who, when she joined, recruited 25 of her friends and neighbours, signed up another 10 taxpayers to the TPA.  Jessica Blossom recruited 10 more supporters in Sussex and London and Ivy Newman has helped us build our membership in North London.

Keep up the excellent work, everyone.  We have a big task ahead of us to secure those essential tax cuts, but with the public behind us we have every chance of success.  Also keep an eye out on the website tomorrow with the announcement of the first TaxPayers’ Alliance protest for lower taxes.  2008 promises to be a big year for the TaxPayers’ Alliance grassroots campaign!

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