Joined: 21 Nov 2005
|Posted: Wed Jul 21, 2010 2:24 pm Post subject:
Deputation made to Hampshire County Council 15.07.10
| receive letters from all over the country from members (and not only from the pensioner members, I hasten to add) telling me their stories about council tax, making suggestions on how the tax could be made fairer and about their difficulties in paying. |
I also receive a lot of information on how councils spend taxpayers’ money.
I had a letter recently from an Isitfair supporter who asks, “How can we make the Government and the councils sit up and take notice of our predicament?”
Both she and her husband are pensioners and receive no state benefits. She had, since retirement, taken on two cleaning jobs to help pay the council tax due on their home. Recently due to the recession she has lost one of these jobs and the second has cut the hours. She has been unable to find other work.
Of course you may say that they should apply for benefits.
Like thousands of others across the country they are asset rich and cash poor. Any money they have is needed to pay for the upkeep on a home they have struggled to buy through their working years. It is their rainy day money, put by for emergencies.
Unlike Governments, that is what they did. They spent according to their means and saved for those rainy days.
They are people living on the edge of the benefit system, financially worse off than those receiving all the state benefits. Sir Michael Lyons in his infamous inquiry said he thought that the savings limit should be raised from the current measly £16,000 to £50,000, but it did not happen.
Perhaps now you can imagine my anger, when I was asked for my opinion on the bonuses or emoluments being paid to the executive staff of councils throughout the country.
Here we have, on the one hand, this lady of retirement age worrying about how to pay her council tax bill, and taking on cleaning jobs to do so and, on the other hand, people employed by the council receiving five figure bonuses.
People who already get huge salaries and generous contributions to their pensions from the public purse, being paid bonuses larger than many of us (including council staff) receive each year to live on and even bring up a family. There must be something very wrong here.
By the way we understand that in 2009/10 Hampshire County Council, as an employer, paid about £65 million into the Hampshire county pension fund. This represents almost 10 per cent of what you call your budget.
When you are justifying Executives’ salaries, you say it is the Executives who are responsible for a huge budget.
When you are justifying special responsibility allowances you say it is Councillors (or, as it stands at the moment, the Cabinet) who are responsible.
If we don’t like what YOU do we have the chance to replace you at election time, but the highly paid executives stay. They are not answerable to us.
And why does monetary restraint apply only to those in the lower echelons of public service? The proposed £250 per annum pay rise for the lowest paid staff now seems to me to be more of an insult. I just hope that when the good times roll the flat monetary rise will apply across the board and halt the widening gap between rich and poor.
Perhaps before that time arrives, it may be more appropriate to consider salary cuts rather than special payments. Look what the Irish government has done!
There are those amongst you who have taken the opportunity provided by the recent revelations to express concerns about lack of transparency.
Those - may I say - whose total remuneration from the public purse is known only to themselves. Isitfair believes that what the public pays, the public has the right to know about and we should not have to rely on pure chance to find out.
Membership of County, District, Town councils, Fire and Police authorities, SEEDA, LGA, Leaders' Board, Partnership Board, National Park authorities and goodness knows how many others.
Why not include them on line on your Hantsweb profiles? Don’t you think your electorate are entitled to know just what you receive from the public purse? And that the details should be easily accessible to them? Why do you resist? Is it because you think your electorate would be shocked? Is it because you think they might be angry? We really don’t understand why.
And now let’s look at the council tax in Hampshire and across many of the Shire counties particularly in the south east, and compare it with that paid elsewhere in the country.
I would like to remind you of Michael Heseltine's words in his statement to the House of Commons prior to the introduction of Council Tax:
• The system should ensure that regional variations in property values do not lead to disproportionate bills in high price areas.
• Nobody likes paying taxes. But in our society taxes have to be basically acceptable to taxpayers; and to achieve that they must be perceived to be fair.
That is what he said.
My modest bungalow attracts a hefty tax of over £1,700; the owner of a similar dwelling in an area where property values (but not necessarily wages or pensions) happen to be lower would pay hundreds of pounds less.
Let us return to our conscientious pensioner who has taken on part-time employment to help her to pay her council tax. Dire though her straits are, they could be even worse if her home were situated in my District. She would probably have to find at least £300 more, not because of a less than frugal council, but because of the difference in property values and consequently in banding.
Look at our PM's council tax. We believe that his Band H constituency house in Oxfordshire costs him (or us we're not sure which) more than double that for his Band H abode in Downing Street which is of course in Westminster, in a league of its own when it comes to council tax, with its Connaught Square millionaires paying around the same Council Tax for their local services as the average family in this county. Perhaps he could be encouraged to ponder the reason for this?
We know the root cause of these inconsistencies lies with the grant system and remain deeply suspicious of “one size fits all” nation wide banding.
We now have a Secretary of State who acknowledges there is a problem.
Now is the time, in spite of the terrible state of the economy, to remind him of the years of unfairness and ask for justice. We shall be doing just that. And may we request you most earnestly to join together with your fellow Shire counties to demand that the cuts which are coming must take into account that your councils (and council tax payers of course) have already been punished, year in year out.
The system has failed. Reform is needed. Eric has to be told.
And, incidentally, the Government has promised referenda on any future increases – let us hope they stick to their promise.
Last edited by christine on Tue Aug 03, 2010 5:27 pm; edited 2 times in total
Joined: 17 Feb 2009