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I take issue with recent reports in The Bordon Herald

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Joined: 21 Nov 2005
Posts: 5467
Location: Hampshire

PostPosted: Fri Mar 14, 2008 5:14 pm    Post subject:
I take issue with recent reports in The Bordon Herald
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irstly, on the 29 February you reported on the latest meeting of Hampshire County Council. I was present and heard Ken Thornber's speech during which he outlined the 2008/09 budget. Yes, I have to agree that listening to figures can test ones concentration (but it was the budget speech for goodness sake!), but the trick is to stay alert to the interesting bits, for instance in Hampshire it appears that the ratio between council tax and government grant is 78:22, whereas, on average, in the Midlands and the North it is 30:70. Not reported!

I am an active member of Isitfair, campaigning for the reform of the council tax system, and I know that our group has advocated getting these figures out into the open. Ken Thornber chose Durham, another Shire county, to illustrate the unfairness of the grant, but there are many other examples.

Much of the anger about council tax is caused by the anomalies in the system which cause people in similar properties, often with similar incomes, to be charged vastly different tax, dependent not on the services they are getting but on where in the country they live. This I believe to be caused not by profligate (or frugal) local councils but by the flawed banding system and funding from central government which in general favours metropolitan councils over the shires.

It is not particularly time consuming to look at the official website of the Department for Communities and Local Government, where the all important average council tax per dwelling in every local authority in England is displayed. The Band D rate, which is so often used as the average by politicians to prove a point, is of little relevance in great swathes of the metropolitan districts where up to 90% of dwellings can be in Bands A or B. No one can dispute that the areas which have been hit by the loss of long standing local industries must be given extra help, but I often wonder if the local councils awarded these generous grants actually use them to improve the infrastructure of their areas, other than the city centres which have obviously benefited, or just use them to keep their council tax down.

Secondly, on 7 March, your correspondent, Frank Wheeler, points his accusing finger at the wrong man. The terms of the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) are decided by central government; local councils have no choice but to conform and if Mr Wheeler explored the Statements of Accounts of other councils he would discover similar tales of woe.

Both employees and employers contribute to the LGPS: employees’ contribution rates are fixed (by central government), while employers’ contributions vary depending on how much is needed to ensure benefits under the Scheme are properly funded. Yes, it is scandalous that the taxpayer is expected to contribute £2.95 for every £1 paid by the employee, but if pension funds need propping up, then Gordon Brown's annual £5 billion raid on them must surely be a prime cause. In this instance, redirect your finger of blame, Mr Wheeler.

This is not to say that Hampshire County Council is without sin. It is a huge organisation and undoubtedly does on occasion see fit to use money in a way the people who pay find unacceptable. Again, I am aware that Isitfair is not slow to draw attention to these instances for example the huge pay roll, seemingly extortionate publicity account, and - two years ago - the sum spent on bottled water.

But I personally am quite confident that my accusing finger is pointed in the right direction - at Gordon Brown and his government.

Mrs Janet A Kelly

Founder Isitfair
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