Friday, April 25, 2008

Vote Red Mist Party

You'll need plenty of £2 coins

As you may have heard, the altogether outstanding Kelvin MacKenzie is so incensed by the unaccountable money burning antics of his local council that he's standing as a local councillor. His Red Mist Party pledge card reads:
  1. Cut car parking charges, which have just been increased by up to 43% in one year alone

  2. Cut the pay of the council leader, which has just been increased by 40%

  3. Scrap the final salary pension scheme for council employees (see many papers from the TaxPayers' Alliance)

He's certainly got Tyler's vote. Apart from his excellent policies, someone of MacKenzie's intelligence and energy is sure put a rocket up the council. We're just sorry he's standing for the council next door.

His red mist descended because Elmbridge Council decided to increase the cost of his station's daily car parking charge by 43%. Just like that.

Interesting. Because all of us are suddenly realising how much these local authority charges have escalated. From car parks, to library fines (see this blog), to policing fees (see this blog), to pest control charges, these days local authorities routinely rack up their charges far faster than prices generally.

We've been taking a closer look at this. In 1997-98, charges and fees levied by English local authorities raised £5.5bn (excluding most council house rents). By 2005-06, the most recent year available, the total had shot up to £10.7bn, an average increase of 9% pa. Which compares to the government's official inflation rate (the Consumer Price Index) over that same period of just 1.3% pa.

Assuming this rate of charging increase has continued - and if MacKenzie's experience is anything to go by, that's a conservative assumption - by 2007-08 the total would have reached £12.6bn, more than £500 pa for every single household. These charges now raise well over half the sum raised by Council Tax.

It's high time we started monitoring these charges systematically. Because Council Tax is by far Britain's most unpopular tax, councils have become circumpect about increasing it, and anyway it is capped by Whitehall. But there have been no such restraints on charges.

In priciple, Tyler is in favour of usage charges. But in practice, they have become yet another stealth tax. They need to be opposed, just as Kelvin is doing.

PS Tyler has in his possession some fascinating account books that belonged to his great grandfather. They record the income and expenses of a very active Ratepayers Association in Brighton before WW1. Great grandfather Tyler was its Treasurer, and was constantly authorising funds for the hiring of meeting halls and the printing of leaflets. Today, I feel sure he would have been a TPA activist. But whatever happened to all those Ratepayer Associations, scrutinising councils at the local level? Their demise is just one more sign of how much power central government has grabbed for itself. (Tyler finds account books fascinating? Sadly, yes. Especially when they are written in fine Victorian copper plate).

PPS Render unto Caesar news. After his last whacky outing on Sharia Law, we'd assumed the Welsh Druid had been locked away in one of his palaces. But this morning he was on Today opining on various financial products, such as roll-up loans. Umm... maybe BOM should start doing theology.

1 comment:

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