Dec 2007 14

An interesting piece by Arthur Laffer (of the famous "Laffer curve") and Stephen Moore in the Wall Street Journal shows how US states with higher taxes and regulations have lost people and businesses to states with lower taxes and regulations. The authors write:

"The American Legislative Exchange Council has just released a study we’ve done that presents a 2007 Economic Competitiveness Rating of the 50 states, based on 16 economic policy variables, including taxes, regulation, right to work, the legal system, educational freedom and government debt. Over the past decade, the 10 states with the highest taxes and spending, and the most intrusive regulations, have half the population and job growth, and one-third slower growth in incomes, than the 10 most economically free states. In 2006 alone 1,500 people each day moved to the states with the highest economic competitiveness from the states with the lowest competitiveness."

The two most important factors are tax rates and trade union legislation:

"Of all the policy variables we examined, two stand out as perhaps the most important in attracting jobs and capital. The first is the income tax rate. States with the highest income tax rates — California and New York, for example — are significantly outperformed by the nine states with no income tax, such as Texas and Florida. As a study from the Atlanta Federal Reserve Board put it: "Relative marginal tax rates have a statistically significant negative relationship with relative state growth."

"The other factor for attracting jobs and capital is right-to-work laws. States that permit workers to be compelled to join unions have much lower rates of employment growth than states that don’t. Many companies say they will not even consider locating a factory in a state that does not have a right-to-work law."

The authors conclude:

"The states losing population are in effect suffering from a slow-motion version of the economic sclerosis that paralyzed much of Europe in the 1980s and ’90s, particularly France and Germany with their massive welfare systems. At least the European socialist nations are finally starting to change their taxing and spending ways to win back jobs.

"No such luck in this country. Five of the states near the bottom of our competitiveness ratings — Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey and Wisconsin — have enacted major tax increases in the last two years. Maryland and Michigan just raised business and income taxes on upper-income earners, while arguing that raising the cost of doing business will attract more businesses. More likely it will induce companies to stay away, and people to move out."

Gordon Brown take note – businesses and jobs will leave these shores if taxes and regulations continue their upward trends.   

Dec 2007 13

Funeral costs and, increasingly, inheritance tax put huge financial strain on bereaved relatives, and now a leading Stafford funeral director has complained to the Staffordshire Newsletter about the 100% inflation in charges from burial and cremation agreed by the borough council.

Cemetery Chris Emery of William Emery and sons is quoted saying that families are being ‘priced out’ and ‘penalised for their loved ones dying’.

The increases, approved by a full meeting of Stafford Borough Council on Tuesday, see the cost of burying an adult in a private grave climb from £299 to £570 (90.6% rise) and non-private grave costs go up from £330 to £620 (87.9% rise). This is on top of charges already doubling over the last five years.

The funeral director said that these charges have to be passed on to the customer, and at Tixall Road cemetery include a doubling in the cost of memorial tablets which will now be priced at £434.

This is another cost levied upon those who have little choice as to whether they pay or not. To hit grieving families with hugely inflated charges is an insensitive way of councils making some income, and unfortunately these methods are mirrored around the country, with prices rising dramatically above inflation for a service that has not, and indeed cannot, significantly improve.

Like many other government charges, this increase hits those who can’t afford it. Burying a relative isn’t and shouldn’t be a luxury, but if councils continue to drive up these costs year on year they run the risk of denying families a dignified farewell for their loved ones. It is time local authorities stopped dreaming up new ways to line their pockets, and showed some consideration.

Dec 2007 13

Stuff_from_the_tpa_camera_024Braving the cold, several TPA supporters have been active campaigning for lower taxes.

Tony Flynn has recently been out in Diss and Tivetshall handing out TPA recruitment leaflets and has set up a low tax campaign site in Norfolk  We’ve also had several recruitment leaflets back from Alpington, Norwich where TPA activist Tony Callaghan has been leafleting.  Keep up the good work, gents.  Already our Central Norfolk and Norwich branch has well over 40 members.  Stay posted for our new-year meeting I’m arranging to oppose council tax increases in Norfolk. 

David Moncaster, from our Shipley branch, has been the first activist to sign up 10 friends in our 10 Friends Challenge.  Congratulations David and we hope you enjoy your copy of ‘How to Label a Goat’.  So come on the rest of you, get recruiting.  I’ve got the dates confirmed when your councils are voting to put up your council tax.  It’s up to us to be outside protesting, showing the strength of opposition, so we’ve got to build our numbers to take the fight to the politicians so eager to take more and more of our money.

Dec 2007 12

There is little doubt that the staging of a nativity play is a stressful experience, and that the prospect of directing tens of small children to present one of the oldest stories of all time is a daunting one. Well, for the teachers at one school in Shropshire the annual experience has been made all the more traumatic, thanks to the meddling of their local council. Nativity

The Shropshire Star reports that Buildwas Primary School’s nativity play was stalled by red-tape, meaning that children at the school would be barred from performing without applying for a temporary event licence from Shrewsbury & Atcham Borough Council.

  The school was loathe to disappoint their young pupils and consequently got the local paper involved, pointing out the lunacy of a rule that prevents children innocently performing a Christmas nativity to their local community in the usual tradition.

Lo-and-behold, with the eyes of the media on them the council are forced to admit a blunder and reveal that there isn’t, nor has there ever been, the need for schools to obtain a licence to perform a play at their local village hall.

The headteacher, Helen Whittaker, said of the whole farce, “You wouldn’t believe how much time has been wasted. I’m fed up with bureaucracy. My job as headteacher is difficult enough as it is.”

Just another case of bungling bureaucrats wasting time and effort, not to mention causing unnecessary stress for teachers, whilst local residents pay their salaries…

But then too many bureaucrats and too much confusing regulation is likely to cause such unnecessary mishaps, and for the taxpayers’ who support Shrewsbury & Atcham Council, the cost of this is about to go up.

A 3% rise in council tax has been agreed and now just needs the rubber stamp, with a 4.22% rise in the town itself, and although those within the council may argue that this is inline with inflation and is necessary to cover costs, when stories of incompetence like this surface the we can only assume that this is the tip of the iceberg and is indicative of further waste within the authority.

Council’s like Shrewsbury & Atcham should be giving local taxpayers a break by cutting down on such unnecessary bureaucracy and giving residents the tax cut they want and deserve.

Dec 2007 12
There are going to be a few changes…

No wonder they don’t want him to retire. This morning President Putin has even found time to help us beleaguered British taxpayers. He’s ordered the closure of no fewer than 15 offices of the totally useless quango the British Council.

BOM readers will be familiar with the Council (see here for summary). It employs over 7,500 people in 110 countries all around the world. It costs £0.5bn pa, of which £0.2bn is a straight subsidy from the taxpayer, with much of the rest comes from "selling" services to other bits of the public sector (see here for latest annual report).

Chaired by my Lord Kinnock, it employs his son- as Head of the St Petersburg branch- and his Lordship’s longtime favourite "Axeman", Billy Bragg, has been on the Advisory Council. It costs each and every British family £20 pa, yet nobody can explain how we benefit. At all.

Indeed it’s so bad, there is an excellent blog dedicated to its misdeeds- David Blackie’s The Language Business.

Last year David blogged the Lords Foreign Affairs Committee which called for two urgent probes into the BC- one by the FCO and one by the National Audit Office- although nothing has happened. As David pointed out:

"The organisation enjoys public funding, charitable status at home, diplomatic status abroad, early retirement, index-linked civil service pensions, enthusiastically embraced contracts with government departments, and the very agreeable freedom to enter into any commercial arrangement it pleases without any public accountability, ombudsman, non-executive director or external moderation or control."

So hurrah for Putin! At last, someone’s taken action. In March he finishes in Russia. Surely his English must be as good as Capello’s, so maybe we could put him in charge of liquidating useless British quangos.

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