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!