Recent news and links:
We're approaching that time of year again, and BOM correspondents are spotting some worrying signs.
Mr Brillo sends news from Telford, where despite an inflation busting 5.35% increase in their central government funding for next year, and the general deflationary environment, and the drop in VAT, the council is still intending to increase council tax. The council reckons it is "impossible for us not to raise council tax".
Mr B is understandably fuming, pointing out that:
"...this is the council that insisted that Penguins couldn't enter the public park without a CRB check and risk-assessment, and that targeted single men sitting eating lunch on the park benches, demanding to know why they were alone (see previous blog here). And they keep wringing their hands over town centre parking fees and telling people to go green or cycle, but that all council staff have free parking right next to their offices."
He should clearly vote for a Tory council.
Oh, Telford is a Tory council.
As is Ealing council, although evidently that hasn't stopped them wasting cash. KM highlights Around Ealing, yet another of those glossy local council puff mags, which reportedly costs £100 grand pa. He also picks up the ParkSmart leaflet (pic above):
"Over the equivalent of 4 sides of A4 this tells you how and where and when you may park your car and what all the associated road markings, signs etc. mean. This has been, I assume, delivered to every household in the borough! At what cost? Who knows? And since when has it been the local council’s job to educate the great British motorist about the Highway Code? And to do so regardless of whether I need to know – I don’t because I don’t drive! If I did drive, wouldn’t I have needed to know all this to pass my test?"
But at least one council will be cutting council tax next year. Tory Hammersmith and Fulham will be cutting by 3%, the third year in a row of lower tax. How?
"More than £13 million of red tape is being cut in 2009/10 by reducing staff numbers, office space and making better use of IT... Cutting communication costs by £300,000 to the lowest levels in London... Cutting personal advisers to Cabinet Members - at an immediate saving of over £300,000 a year." (HTP JW)
Hurrah for H&F, and may we suggest Telford's councillors pay a visit.
£100 grand nurse
Tyler's mum was a nurse, and the deal was always that they earned a pittance but were viewed as angels. Now:
"AN NHS nurse has broken the £100,000 barrier for the first time as health staff cash in on generous incentive schemes.
The nurse consultant in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, has doubled her basic salary of £50,000 by working overtime under an NHS initiative to bring down waiting lists."
The Sunday Times report updates us on other high earners in the NHS. Many nurses now earn in excess of £60 grand pa, and many consultants are getting over £200,000.
Nothing intrinsically wrong with people earning such sums of course. But this article raises all the old familiar questions. Should nurses be employed as cheap consultants? Should they be able to double their incomes by working Gawd knows how many hours overtime? How have these huge increases in NHS pay delivered anything like sensible value to taxpayers?
£10m to get robbed
We've blogged before about how quangos spend our money getting us to hand over even more to them. Now we've got some figures:
"PUBLIC bodies are spending about £2m a year on political consultants to help them lobby ministers and MPs for more taxpayers’ money, it was claimed last night.
The close ties between state-funded quangos and the lobbying industry are disclosed in a dossier listing 71 separate contracts worth almost £10m over five years."
Even more jaw clenching is the stinking incestuous relationship between the lobbying industry and government:
"The biggest beneficiary is Weber Shandwick, headed by Labour’s former chief press officer, Colin Byrne, which has lucrative relationships with organisations including the Crown Estate, the Meat and Livestock Commission and the British Museum, worth a total of £1.8m over five years. The firm also employs Priti Patel, a Tory parliamentary candidate and former aide to William Hague.
Also profiting from quango contracts is Grayling Political Strategy, whose managing director, Tanya Joseph, is a former spin doctor for Tony Blair. The lobbying firm offers an “information, intelligence and advisory service” to institutions ranging from the grand, such as the Royal Mint, to the obscure, such as the Northern Lighthouse Board, whose beacons guard the coasts of Scotland and the Isle of Man."
It makes you want to throw up.
And to arm yourself.
(HTP John C)
£2bn loss on equity punt
Several correspondents have highlighted the £2bn immediate loss on the government's equity investment in RBS.
With the existing shares trading at 10p below the offer price for new ones, it was unsuprsing that we got stuffed with the new ones.
Not that it matters. The reality is that we're now underwriting the whole of Britain's banking system, with its combined balance sheet in excess of £6 trillion. What's a couple of bill compared to that lot?
The most important thing - as we've blogged many times - is that if we taxpayers are supplying the capital and taking the risks, then we taxpayers should reap the eventual rewards. And we're by no means convinced HMT is paying enough attention to that issue.