Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Tory conference is good news for Barnet


The recent Conservative Party Conference was somewhat overshadowed by the recent turmoil in the world’s financial markets, so you may have missed some interesting policy announcements which are bound to appeal to voters of all political colours.

Shadow Chancellor George Osborne announced that there would be a two year freeze on council tax which will come as a welcome relief to everyone who has seen their tax bill rise relentlessly year on year over the last decade.

In Barnet, these rises have been due to a combination of poor settlement grants from central government and Labour having raided the kitty before they left office in 2002. But whatever the reason, taxpayers need a break.

There is, however, a potential loophole in Mr Osborne’s proposals because councils could try to raise additional revenue through stealth measures such as increased rents for council tenants, supplementary business rates, car parking fees or penalty charge notices.

George Osborne’s plans to allow councils to increase expenditure by 2.5%, to be paid for by an increased government grant - in turn to be paid for by reducing government spending on consultants and advertising.

But for his plan to work, there must be a corresponding freeze on charges raised by local authorities. The key buzzword at the moment is responsibility. Councils across the country spend far too much of our money on frivolous vanity projects, paying obscene salaries for chief officers and councillors, and creating thousands of non jobs such as Barnet’s very own Social Media Manager. All of these extravagances must come to an end because the taxpayer’s pips are well and truly squeaking.

David Cameron gave an excellent speech by all accounts. Two items caught my attention.

First was his announcement that taxpayers money cannot be used to buy plasma screens. This comes a bit late for us in Barnet with £14,000 having already been frittered away on wide screen televisions for chief officers, but clearly Mr Cameron was sending a coded message to Barnet that enough is enough.

Second was his statement that quangos have seen their day. The Taxpayers Alliance estimates that the total cost of these bodies was £101 billion in 2007 - a figure too large to even comprehend.

Many quangos duplicate the work of others and there does not appear to be any independent scrutiny of their effectiveness. Appointments are rarely based on ability or experience. Rather, quangos seem to exist purely for members of the political classes to give each other cosy little jobs with plum allowances.

So, if you want to stop your tax being wasted lining the pockets of money grabbing politicos then the answer is simple. Vote Conservative!

11 comments:

Rog T said...

David,

I'm sorry to say that analysis of where the Tories are in power and can make a difference (ie Barnet) does not really support your hypothosis does it?

Not only that but it appears their spin & media manipulation put even Mandleson to shame.

David Cameron should get his house in order here. Otherwise his speech is just fine words.

Duncan Macdonald said...

The problem with Osborne's proposal to freeze council tax is that it is yet another nail in the coffin of any meaningful local democracy.
The centralising control freakery of both the Tories and Labour might solve the problem in the short term but it fails to address the underlying problems.
Firstly Council tax is a deeply flawed and regressive tax. Secondly if voters vote in a high spending administration then they should expect to pay more tax.
If there are no consequences when you vote because central government is going to ride to the rescue then why bother voting? In fact that's exactly why many people don't bother. They
know that it makes very little difference. We should be looking to strengthen local accountability and local democracy. We should be freeing local authorities from central
government control, meaningless targets etc. Just think how much would be saved if the pages of meaningless statistics that Barnet gathered for central government were dispensed with.

Sparkled_pixie said...

Most people do not bother to vote because of things said on Blogs like this - insiders fighting each other whether they be members of a political party, local politicans or national politicians.

To the average Mrs Smith the whole thing is a mockery and until it stops they rightly ask why they should bother and don't actually read the policies.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Duncan

I agree with you 100% that local government is not as democratic as the public are led to believe, and I suspect that the electorate would be shocked to discover how many things councils do under instruction from central government rather than voluntarily.

But you can’t change the system overnight. Council Tax is not a perfect system, but neither is the LibDem proposal for a local income tax. A tax freeze for 2 years as proposed by George Osborne will really concentrate the minds of councils as they will be forced into cutting waste and bureaucracy. Let’s get public spending under control first and then decide how to reform the system.

As for the democratic deficit, the obvious step is to have directly elected Mayors running every council. The chief officers of the council have far too much power but cannot be removed by the electorate. Whatever the intention of Labour when passing the Local Government Act 2000, it is quite clear that the Cabinet system is fundamentally flawed and, in Barnet’s case, has made 53 councillors effectively redundant.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Sparkled Pixie, congratulations on writing the most stupid comment of all time. Nobody is forced to read this blog against their will.

Turnout at elections is falling because voters think it makes little difference and that the political parties are all the same once in power. I don’t ever recall an instance of anyone saying “I’m not going to vote because the parties won’t stop discussing policies.”

Debate is the lifeblood of a democracy.

Based on your argument, all the parties should stop holding annual conferences and instead their respective leaders should make a proclamation as to what will be. Just like in Barnet.

Duncan Macdonald said...

This sums up my view fairly well.

http://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-time-to-stop-taking-money-from-councils-4650.html

As far as local income tax goes, I would prefer LVT but LIT would be a vast improvement on what we have now.

Anonymous said...

DCMD - while I take your point - I hardly think that qualifies as the most stupid comment of all time.

Rog T - have you been 'struck off' at the Barnet Times?

Rog T said...

Lets just say that currently I'm discussing ways of improving it with the Times group.

Regards

Rog

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Perhaps not the most stupid comment of all time, but certainly the most idiotic posted here. However, I am sure Sparkled pixie will prove me wrong in due course with something even more pathetic.

manswell said...

I don't know how you can endorse votng conservative to cut costs when as your blog so carefully documents the conservatives here in Barnet are taking residents for a ride daily.

Surely an experienced political commentator like you hasn't been taken in by Tory leadership spin?

And it's no use saying that the Palriamentary party is better than the local scum we have to put up with - they're all standing for Parliament!

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Manswell

This piece was intended to highlight the difference between official Conservative Party policies and those pursued by Barnet Council. Most of us realise that political parties rarely do what they say on the tin but in theory the official party line is no more quangos. In reality, Barnet’s Tory councillors are first in line at the trough.