Of all the things a council could interfere in, Slough Council has banned its community bonfire – especially for bonfire night – because it breaches their ‘clean air policy’. With the proliferation of green politics and the development of ‘climate change’ departments in local authorities, we’re certainly not surprised such a ridiculous measure has been taken. To think that a bonfire can pollute the air of an entire borough is madness. To ban it, a yearly celebration that is one of the few remaining public activities to bring communities together, is bordering on the ridiculous.
Councils must stop interfering in our lives. They ban bonfires because of the smoke, so what next – banning the barbecues in our back gardens?
So hold these interfering, bureaucratic clowns to account. Write to:
Cllr Richard Stokes
Leader of Slough Borough Council
Slough Borough Council
Email: [email protected]
And the local papers too:
Slough, Eton and Windsor Observer
Email: [email protected]
487 Ipswich Road,
Email: [email protected]
The Derby TaxPayers’ Alliance branch launched yesterday with a meeting of prominent tax activists in Derby and a leading journalist from the Derby Evening Telegraph interested in the formation of the local grassroots branch. Joining us is Josephine Rooney, who came to national attention when she refused to pay her council tax last year resulting in her, albeit temporary, imprisonment. She joins our Derby campaign as we prepare for next year’s expected council tax rise.
Heading our Derby campaign is Dave Black, a former councillor and community activist. Dave, so he tells me, holds the world record for driving through a flaming tunnel from his days as a stuntman. Needless to say if we have those used to hard knocks in the campaign we’ll do fine taking political punches from the establishment as they try to counter our drive for lower taxes and better government.
Dave explained that the most pressing matters are council overspending, holding the council to account over their accounts and – obviously – council tax. He will be recruiting over the coming weeks and months to prepare for next year’s battle over council tax. With enough coverage locally we can amass a grassroots campaign the politicians will hopefully listen to. If you want to get in touch with Dave and the Derby campaign then call our Derby hotline on 0845 330 9554 or email him at [email protected]. We look forward to interesting developments up in Derby and hope you can come and get involved.
According to local reports Ken Meeson, the leader of Solihull Council, is warning of substantial council tax hikes next year in a bid to claw back enough money to straddle the deficit opened by a cut in their government grant. This follows this year’s inflation busting 5% rise in council tax.
Meeson bemoans the council’s fiscal situation – it receives the lowest grant of all the 36 metropolitan councils in England – and cites the closure of public toilets and the reduction in funding for the Solihull Music Service as necessary sacrifices with the council facing at least £5million of further reductions over the next three years as central Government demand 3% efficiency savings from local authorities. Needless to say residents are very critical of these moves.
In addition, Solihull Council have made “savings on services” which we can only hope is not a euphemism for essential frontline service cutbacks, as well as making some voluntary redundancies. Meeson asks, ‘I wonder what more we can do’ and yet a quick look at the Solihull Council website jobs page reveals that the council are still doling out hefty salaries for bureaucratic positions:
The primary focus of this role is to work with key individuals to ensure SMBC Corporate policies and procedures promote the welfare of vulnerable individuals and staff are aware of their responsibilities to do so and enabled to do so.
Are Solihull Council staff not already aware of procedure? How have they coped before this post was invented?
It goes on to include choice snippets such as:
• Develop and commission training to ensure relevant individuals are enabled to utilise Corporate polices in order to safeguard and promote the welfare of vulnerable individuals.
• Raise awareness across SMBC employees of the responsibility to safeguard and promote the welfare of vulnerable individuals including review of corporate induction programme.
• Attend and effectively contribute to a range of internal and/or external meetings and project groups as required.
• Produce progress reports at an agreed frequency and present to various forums.
Surely if a real problem arises with regard to staff treatment of vulnerable individuals we have the provision of the police who are a more effective and direct port-of-call than the Solihull ‘Safeguarding Consultant’ whose remit just seems to require that he dreams up/develops many more time-consuming rules, regulations and procedures.
It isn’t possible for Solihull Council to plead poverty whilst advertising posts like these. Instead of cutting back on public toilets and other vital amenities Solihull needs to reassess and ensure that its savings are truly efficient, and accrued by shedding unnecessary bureaucracy like that exemplified by this role, rather than making the sort of headline grabbing cuts designed to alarm the public and justify the next tax-hike.
This is very worrying. While other countries are stabilising or reducing their taxes, Britain’s tax burden continues to rocket. A decade ago this country had among the lowest taxes in the OECD, now we have some of the highest. Faced with the growing challenge of China and India, this is completely the wrong direction to go. Britain’s economy cannot compete with India and China on wages and nor should it, but we can stay competitive if we have a low, simple and transparent tax system. The current tax regime has none of these features.
Importantly, this is being felt across the country. Jeff Randall’s excellent "Real Business in Brown’s Britain" series in the Telegraph, in which he has journeyed across the country to discover the challenges facing small businesses, is scathing:
"The proportion of start-ups that had achieved an annual turnover of £1m-plus after five years fell sharply during Brown’s years at the Treasury, down from 29pc in 1998 to 16pc in 2006.
"And even though the UK’s stock of companies has been rising, the rate of entrepreneurial activity has been falling: the proportion of adults who are either setting up a business or running one is down from 7.7pc in 2001 to 5.8pc in 2006.
"Research by the University of Sheffield suggests that behind this decline lies "crowding out" by a bloated public sector, which has created about 680,000 state-funded jobs since Labour came to power in 1997.
"For many small companies battling to survive in Britain’s fast-shrinking manufacturing sector, this country is no longer a rewarding place to be, as I discovered on the next leg of my journey.
"Looking round the world at rival locations, Duncan concludes: "This [Newport] is by far the most expensive place to operate." He includes in that tax, wages and the cost of logistics, such as transport. As a result, Tomoe may be forced to say "hwyl fawr" to Wales.
""It’s possible that one day we won’t manufacture here," says Duncan. He would regret leaving, but he’s paid to run a profitable business for Japanese shareholders with an international perspective. "We are seriously considering moving overseas because Britain has become so uncompetitive." "
Coming just a few days after the superbug scandal at the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Hospital NHS Trust and the admission that 20 hospitals have worse infection rates than Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells is the lastest in a series of revelations about the sub-standard level of care in the NHS.
The Healthcare Commission has just published its Annual Health Check, and the findings make grim reading. As the Times points out, the report finds that one in four hospital trusts across the country is still failing to meet basic standards of hygiene and infection control.
"Imagine if a care home in the private sector had over 90 deaths due to negligence. But will anything happen here, where the NHS is run by ever-changing politicians, who lack management experience and knowledge of healthcare?
"The Secretary of State, the three Ministers and two Parliamentary Undersecretaries have made up the top three levels of the NHS over the last 10 years. Yet they have virtually no management experience, no in-depth knowledge of the NHS and they frequently change their jobs.
"Alan Johnson, the current Secretary of State for Health, is typical. Before becoming an MP he worked in the Communication Workers Union, a position for which no healthcare expertise was needed. Since he was first appointed to a ministerial position eight years ago he has been a minister at the DTI and at the DfES and a Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the DTI and the DfES before moving to the Department of Health. That’s more than six jobs in eight years, in four very different departments. How does any of this equip him to run one of the largest and most complex organisations in the Western world? It doesn’t.
"We will continue to have a Health Service which is ranked as 18th out of 19 developed countries by the British Medical Journal as long as politicians continue to manage the Health Service."