THE government has commanded county councils to freeze council tax to demonstrate it has some sympathy with the majority of families in this country who are having difficulty in coping with rising costs.
Despite this, In Northumberland the Lib Dem-led council has found at least two ways of making sure it is going to be able to afford to continue paying members their generous annual remuneration allowance of £12,500 plus expenses incurred in carrying out council activities by introducing some novel money making schemes which will bring in that extra cash needed.
The first one was to declare that there were a number of services previously carried out by local town councils and which could no longer be afforded because of the lack of cash.
The responsibilities for maintenance of public parks, gardens and toilets for example were henceforth to be taken over by the local parish and town councils formed after the reorganisation in 2009.
This has resulted in a precept charge levied by the respective councils to pay for the necessary work to be done but collected as a separate item on the council tax bill by the county.
We also have now to pay £22 a year to have our garden waste collected, a charge which was previously included in the yearly amount collected by Blyth Valley Council after the initial purchase of the brown bin.
To me, these are pretty poor attempts to disguise a substantial increase in the Council Tax.
I am not complaining of having to pay for these services, but I am really irritated by the way that our political masters keep citing the ‘freeze’ as a helpful measure to offset rising costs when all they are doing is resorting to semantics to fool the public.
The second one which is to be introduced shortly is aimed at the residents in south east Northumberland through attempts to introduce car parking charges in the villages and towns where car parking for visitors has never been the problem as experienced in the other towns like Morpeth, Alnwick and Berwick because of the number of tourists.
The county has announced that 26 new ‘traffic wardens’ will be appointed and warnings have been issued that compliance of parking restrictions will be carefully monitored and non compliance will definitely attract fines.
To make certain that these wardens will be a revenue producing band of workers, no less than 67 new parking restricted areas are scheduled to be introduced in the localities where parking has always been free.
It will be interesting to see eventually whether the cost of introducing these measures (which should include the staff time needed to prepare the scheme, the recruitment of the traffic wardens, the costs of the publicity involved, the salaries to be paid to the wardens and the work needed to ‘signpost’ the new restricted parking areas), will be less than the revenue from the total of the fines collected in a year’s time.
Having to resort to measures like these is unlikely to engender respect for our councillors.
And in no way can these be classed as ‘efficiency’ exercises in the interests of ‘austerity’ to reduce our national debt.
Is it any wonder therefore that so many of us have so little faith in today’s politicians.