Nov 2007 29

ClownsLiverpool’s taxpayers will be shocked to know they have to stump up a whopping £150,000 for…wait for it…a chess tournament. 

This tale of incompetence started with the Liverpool Culture Company (LCC), a semi-private body, agreeing to pay for the European Chess Tournament, but reneged on the £100,000 deal. 

Out of the blue, however, the North West Development Agency (NWDA), a taxpayer-funded quango, has emerged with £150,000 of taxpayers’ money to fund the tournament. What are they using, golden pawns? 

But alas if you look closely enough you find this is yet another story of government bureaucrats going along hand in glove with each other to squander yet more taxpayers’ money. 

Follow this trail if you will.  The Liverpool Culture Company was meant to have funded the European Chess Tournament in Liverpool.  The Chairman of the LCC is Bryan Gray.  The Chairman of the NWDA now funding the tournament is Bryan Gray.  The chief operating officer of the LCC is Bernice Law.  The deputy chief executive of the NWDA is Bernice Law.  Isn’t it odd that the same people are involved in spending your money on a chess tournament when a private body was meant to?  You draw your conclusions from those links, but it seems to us that taxpayers’ money is being used where it shouldn’t be and far too much is being used on a mere chess tournament.

Feel free to email Bernice Law to find out why the taxpayer should foot the bill.

We should strongly expose this to the local papers.  Send your letters to the Liverpool Daily Post:

Letters Editor
Liverpool Daily Post
PO Box 48,
Old Hall Street,
Liverpool,
L69 3EB,
United Kingdom
Email: [email protected]

And the Liverpool Echo:

Letters Editor
The Liverpool Echo
PO Box 48,
Old Hall Street,
Liverpool,
L69 3EB,
United Kingdom
email: [email protected]

Nov 2007 29

Harrietharman

Defending financial stability in an economy near you… soon…

Peter Franklin argues, on ConservativeHome’s Platform, for a minister in charge of financial stability:

"Devoting a Cabinet minister to financial stability is no guarantee of financial stability, but it would help and, if nothing else, would send a message to the anxious savers and pension fund holders of Middle England that we take their concerns seriously."

At the moment no one has direct overall responsibility for financial stability. I think that just about the only way you could make things worse is to put a politician in charge. This isn’t an area where there are many ideological issues at stake that should be decided democratically. It is, instead, an area that requires expert and experienced judgement.

Your ideal person to put in charge of financial stability is someone respected by the markets with a real knowledge of economics and how the system works. A non-politician. Make it a ministerial post and you’re highly unlikely to wind up with someone qualified to oversee the financial system (of course the same can be true with the Civil Service – see Sir John Gieve). There aren’t really people with those kinds of qualifications in the Commons – just a few ex-financial journalists and the odd banker.

You’ll probably get someone who won’t have real experience in anything but politics. Particularly given that it will be a job where people only notice the minister if things go wrong. Just like the Home Office at the moment it will be a poisoned chalice which will mean it won’t even get the brightest ministers. Whoever got the job would just have to watch, fearfully, and hope things take care of themselves. If something went wrong there would probably be a carefully established media strategy but little idea of what to actually do about the problem. The stability of the British financial system would be further impaired and Middle England wouldn’t be impressed.

Nov 2007 28

Stoke-On-Trent City Council are at it again with sky-high salaries for ambiguous bureaucratic positions. After losing their assistant chief executive to ill health, they’re now advertising the post with a bumper salary of £125,000.

Many party leaders at the council question not only the salary, but the need for the role at all. Potteries Alliance leader Peter Kent-Baguley is quoted in The Sentinel:

"I think there should be another look at whether this job is actually needed. There is already a council manager and chief executive and I would have thought he could give the strategic lead and co-ordinate directors. I don’t see why we need a second tier of management. This money could go on front-line services."Moneydownthedrain

Stoke Council is no stranger to throwing money away, most recently they’ve started re-branding despite being one of the worst councils in the country. They’ve also thought fit to invest taxpayers’ money in a council anthem – which might be funny if it wasn’t so shocking.

This council’s cavalier attitude to spending money is beyond belief. As services decline, the gimmicks just seem to multiply along with the extra management positions.

If Stoke-On-Trent truly have this money to splash then instead of buying surplus bureaucrats and theme tunes they really should consider giving it back to their residents as a tax cut, and letting them decide how they can best spend their own money.   

Nov 2007 28

EyeEver since we came across a story on the BBC website advertising for residents to join Lancaster City Council’s ‘independent remuneration panel’, we’ve found that all councils have to have some form of panel to initiate hearings and make recommendations on councillor allowances.  This is where you can get involved as TPA activists.  Call your council, ask for the democratic services department and enquire about joining your borough’s independent remuneration panel.  They don’t meet often, however the decisions they make can have a real impact on taxpayers.

It’s time to get low-tax activists onto these panels to see that decisions on council allowances take into account the interests of taxpayers.  Norfolk County Council recently agreed to increase its councillor allowances by 28%.  We have a chance to stop such increases and keep council tax down.  So do your bit, get involved and make that welcome difference for your community. 

As always, if you do get on a council panel, then please let me know so we can give you any support and assistance you need.

Nov 2007 28

SmallbluebinAn article in today’s Guardian is suitably entitled “the business of governing is much harder that we would like to believe”.  Although on a completely different topic to what you will read here, it strikes a note especially when you cast your eyes over our non-job of the week.  We’ve chosen a set of “welfare rights” jobs from Lambeth council:

Welfare Benefits Project Officer
£30,018 – £32,094

Lambeth is building a team to ensure that vulnerable people in the borough get access to welfare benefits advice. If you are passionate about maximising income for vulnerable people and you have excellent skills and experience in welfare benefits work, then this could be the job for you.

This is one of three posts that will work on our new campaign, funded by Lambeth Council and Lambeth PCT, to improve benefit take up. The campaign is called Every Pound Counts and is part of Lambeth’s Local Area Agreement. It is delivered in partnership with local advice agencies and targets older people, people living with ill health and disability, and their carers, including families caring for disabled children.

This is a key role supporting Lambeth in achieving its Local Area Agreement stretch target for benefits uptake. Working with voluntary and statutory partner organisations to ensure excellent co-ordination of benefits support to clients, you’ll project manage the take up campaign. Activities will include monitoring the contracts with local advice agencies, working on the campaign and developing and delivering a programme of outreach and publicity activities.

We are looking for someone with experience in welfare rights advice, managing contracts with voluntary agencies, and presenting and producing information for a variety of audiences at all levels.

Successful candidates will be asked to apply for an Enhanced Disclosure from the Criminal Records Bureau. Further information about the Disclosure can be found at www.disclosure.gov.uk and in the application pack.”

The objection to this job isn’t that it’s providing benefits; it should form as a critique of the complexities within our government.  Referring back to the title of the Guardian article I mentioned at the start, government doesn’t have to be as difficult as it is.  Vulnerable people shouldn’t be dumped in a state of confusion within a complex benefits system.  Our taxes shouldn’t be employing bureaucrats to solve a problem created by government in the first place.  Not only are we employing (yes, us, it’s our money) bureaucrats to help those befuddled by the system, but we’re also financing overpayments officers because sometimes the benefits officers get beat by the system too.  Talk about two wrongs making a right…

The solution, clearly, is a simple tax and benefits system.  It’s not as if alternative ideas aren’t out there.  Look at the flat tax phenomenon gripping and propelling the former Eastern bloc into the developed world.  Charles Murray’s plan to replace the Welfare State creates a national minimum whilst doing away with whole swathes of public sector bureaucracy.  It’s becoming a regular feature in debate on this to raise the personal threshold where one starts to pay income tax.  The ideas are out there and we clearly have to change the way our benefits system works.  The complexity burns more of our money whilst leaving vulnerable people in a dire situation.  The cost of a complex benefits system takes funding away from frontline services.  The long run implications of an ever-increasing public sector pay roll will be to swell the size of the state as well as higher tax bills.

Please make this point to the leader of Lambeth Council, Cllr Steve Reed, and ask him what he will do to lower council tax bills in Lambeth. 

Also get a local debate started, send your letters to:

South London Press
2-4 Leigham Court,
SW16 2PD
Email: [email protected] (please make your subject ‘for the attention of Hannah Walker re: letter to the editor’)

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