by Olivia O'Mahony, intern
Over the last few months, the TaxPayer’s Alliance has been on the road on our annual Town Hall Rich List Roadshow. We visited 6 of the worst offending councils, chatting to locals in Guilford, Dorchester, Sheffield, Kidderminster, Cardiff and Sunderland. While each area has its own unique circumstances, everywhere we went we found the same basic messages - taxpayers are not happy, and councils are not listening.
Rising council tax, dwindling public services and out of touch councils formed the common tale of the roadshow. While a city such as Cardiff may look different to a town such as Kidderminster, under the surface they both had their examples of failures and mismanagement. Local taxpayers were quick to point out that increased council rates were showing diminishing returns, yet council officials are more than happy to line their own pockets.
Sunderland saw the greatest show of hands, as we asked people to place a vote on whether the Executive Director of Neighbourhoods deserved to take home a whopping £573,550. No doubt the locals sided with the ‘no’ category, as some attempted to block the ‘yes’ box, and even bin it altogether.
The Town Hall Rich List roadshow in Sunderland
It came as no surprise that councils went to vast lengths to put an end to our campaigning. This year, 47 councils refused to publish their accounts. When on the road, both Cardiff and Sunderland council demanded we shut down our activity. One Sunderland council official suggested that we had to seek approval from a council committee to conduct political campaigning - I’m sure we can all guess what the outcome of that would be. This was against the backdrop of the council's lavish £42 million office which, we must not forget, carried a £77,000 window cleaning bill. The council’s priorities are clear, and taxpayers are not high on the list.
The Town Hall Rich List Roadshow is a summer staple of the TPA’s calendar year. Between the energetic outbursts and provoking pitches from locals, a sense of true betrayal was hard to escape. The cost of reckless council spending is plain and simple - taxpayers are paying out for the princely pay packets of Town Hall bosses, and they are certainly not happy about it.