We are worse off

We feel worse off today, because we are worse off. It’s that time of year when we feel especially harried by our rapacious government. The Council Tax bill comes as a nasty shock, when you discover just how much money they want to take off you for emptying your dustbins. For all those who who do not have Council street lights, who do not have children at school and who never get time to go to the local library to borrow a book, the Council tax is not much of a deal. You just have to accept it as part of the requirement to help pay for the neighbours who use these local services. What is especially annoying is the perpetual wish of many Councils to spend more and more of our money limiting road space and making travel more difficult, and the growing army of Council officials that are needed to deal with the stifling central bureaucracy in Whitehall watching and motitoring their every move.
As a motorist I feel especially punished. If I try to park in parts of London, I need to spend time trying to decipher what the rules are that apply to each few yards of street, as they are often different and complex. The other day one stretch of road was red lined – urban clearway from 8 am to 7 pm Monday to Friday– which seemed to imply you could park free at other times. Nearby in the side road there was pay as you display parking which seemed to require payment from 8.30 am to 10 pm Monday to Friday and for part of Saturday, whilst in the same side road there was residents parking with different times of application. As it was a bank holiday the rules were not specified. Did a bank holiday count as a Sunday – in which case I could apparently park anywhere I liked for free – or did a bank holiday Friday count as a normal Friday, in which case I was snookered? I decided it was all too difficult and waited for a pay and display space to become available so I could send more money to a Council. The last thing I wanted was to fall victim to the predatory clampers or vehicle removers, who hover in parts of London waiting to pounce on anyone who dares leave their vehicle for a few minutes in the “wrong” place and who has not obtained an A level in advanced parking rules.
A couple of weeks ago I needed to go to Ipswich. I decided to go by train. It was an eco disaster. There were only two of us in the carriage I chose, and the other carriages on a long heavy old train were equally empty. We must have caused much more pollution per passenger journey than if we had gone by fuel efficient car. The train was electric powered, meaning energy loss on a big scale at the power station to generate the electricity, as well as substantial energy loss when converting the electrical energy into motive power at the engine. Getting to the station was not easy either in the rush hour, although fortunately my destination at the other end was in walking distance of the station. Coming back there was a half hour delay. Our driver told us it would be a ten minute delay owing to a broken down freight train. It meant it would have been quicker by car after all, as well as cheaper, and greener at least on the outbound. They really do need to raise the railway’s game if it is to be environmentally friendly, and customer friendly as well.

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15 Comments

  1. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted March 26, 2008 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Your examples are merely the tip of the iceberg. Please offer us some hope that a future Conservative government will take action from day one to remove the heavy and expensive hand of the state.

    Reply: I continue to argue for a smaller and more efficient state, and lower taxes.

  2. Alistair
    Posted March 26, 2008 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    With regards to trains I find it difficult to ever justify this method of travel. I grew up in Wokingham and live now in nearby Binfield. To go to London for the day on the train requires spending over £20 per person and the journey is well over an hour long even presuming there are no delays! (It is almost quicker to travel from Southampton where I went to University!) Then even when you get to Waterloo you have to spend more time on the underground.

    As an alternative if I drive it costs no more than £15 in diesel (with up to 4 in the car) and if on a Sunday there are often no parking charges. I would not consider this ever on a weekday however and so in these situations I am stuck with a slow and expensive process to get into London.

    I know you have asked questions in parliament about the state of Wokingham's station. However, in all honesty, I would rather have a station in poor condition if the trains got to Waterloo 20 mins quicker – it is hardly a long distance!

    Reply: I AGREE FASTER TRAINS – AND MORE FREQUENT TRAINS – FROM WOKINGHAM WOULD HELP

  3. Posted March 26, 2008 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Don't forget that Ken Leavingsoon has jacked up his take of London council tax by 300%.
    http://lettersfromatory.wordpress.com

  4. Cliff
    Posted March 26, 2008 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    I too have just received my council tax "pack" from WBC. I feel very sorry for the postal staff that have to carry these packages….They can hardly be called letters.

    What strikes me is the number of glossy magazines and pamphlets contained in the pack. Each one produced independently at great expense informing me how well they are spending my rip off tax. WBC, WTC, TVP, BF&R, Environment agency etc etc…

    Every house in Wokingham has a free paper delivered, why not take out a full page of advertising to inform us about how well they spend our money and how grateful we should be….I would love to know how much all these corporate magazines and pamphlets cost. There you go CEO WBC one large saving in a very easy common sense way….

    How on Earth any council can justify £200 per month rip off tax I don't know….Just because someone lives in a large house that they have had for decades does not mean they are rich. I see that nEU Labour are secretly putting in place plans to charge extra to homes with off road parking or nice views…….What is her Majesty's Opposition doing to question such proposals? Why is Dave "me too" Cameron not asking why we in Wokingham and many other Conservative areas only have a twenty percent grant for rip off tax from the government where as Labour heartlands have eighty percent grants…. This is a far less fair tax than the Poll Tax ever was and look at the damage that did to our party then, why are we not making more of a fuss about council tax/rip off tax levels?

    Incidentally, if you send a letter to WBC addressed to the rip off department or rip off tax….it gets to the council tax department…says it all really!!

  5. Posted March 26, 2008 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Like you, I don't mind train travel, and when I need to weekday commute into central London from Basingstoke, I do use the train. But it's full, so constant government lamentations about the need for more of us to use trains simply won't deal with commuter traffic.

    And jacking up my road tax to encourage me to use a more fuel efficient car won't help either because the car exists in the now and is privately owned, so it won't simply cease to exist, regardless of what level of road tax is imposed.

    I could move closer to work and thereby produce less CO2 on the commute, but 3% stamp duty means such a financial hit that you can't really move for a job in an uncertian labour market.

    So for all the propaganda, it's a case of fend for yourself and whilst you are doing that, we'll have £975 annual road tax, £200 a month in petrol duties and remember, your council tax is due.

  6. APL
    Posted March 26, 2008 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    JR: "The last thing I wanted was to fall victim to the predatory clampers or vehicle removers, who hover in parts of London waiting to pounce on anyone who dares leave their vehicle for a few minutes in the “wrong” place and who has not obtained an A level in advanced parking rules."

    I suggest you and your readers step over to Neil Herron's blog, his revelations regarding incompetent local authority implementation of the decriminialised parking law, has led to a large number of successful appeals and refunded fines, er I mean administrative charges.

    Have you seen the revolting DVLC 'public service announcements' (New Labour Newspeak for threats) on the television.

    Alistair: " As an alternative if I drive it costs no more than £15 in diesel"

    Around 1985, the then Tory government lowered the duty on diesel engined vehicles, when the usage of such vehicles increased as a result of the financial incentive, the same government raised the level of duty to the same or similar to that on petrol.

  7. John
    Posted March 26, 2008 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Bring back the Poll Tax or similar. The present system has become grossly unfair and indiscriminate. If, as reported, our council tax goes up because we have a driveway, I for one, will start parking my vehicles on the street. If everyone did that to avoid the extra tax, there would be gridlock and nowhere for visitors to park. If true, it's another stupid idea from an incompedent government.

  8. Rose
    Posted March 26, 2008 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    When I read you on parking and council tax I realize the gulf between Wokingham and the rest of us. They say Wokingham is the pleasantest and most contented place in the kingdom. Certainly, it never sounds as if you are choking on diesel fumes like the rest of us, or being bankrupted by council spending on "Equalities".

    If only our council were spending our money on other people's children's education! As it is, we live in a tiny terraced house with no parking, and beset by crime, filth, noise, and pollution, with not a policeman to be seen anywhere outside a speeding panda car, and our council tax is £2,200 a year. That is without the special Brown punishment coming to us for having a view. The council has annexed our street for short-stay public car parking from which they, not we, get the proceeds – except they don't now, as the robbers from abroad come every night to beat the hideous and obstructive pay and display machines until they vomit up their coins. Then they turn their attention to the parked cars. (Presumably it is rumoured abroad that the streets of Britain are paved with gold. ) In the morning after an exhausting night we get punctures in our bikes from all the broken glass, and dogs can't walk on the pavements without cutting their pads. And of course graffiti and litter is everywhere. We no longer get up in the night to telephone the police as it has no worthwhile effect.

    If only you would consider the Japanese custom of not allowing any parking at all in the streets. Encountering no blockages or congestion along the route, you would not be perplexed on your arrival by the many variations in council rules, but would just go straight to a beautifully designed and privately run car park where your car would be perfectly safe. The rest of us could enjoy the safer and more tranquil streets that would ensue, as only the very determined motorists would persist in bringing their cars into cities where people are living, and, above all, we would find we were able to breathe. We could bicycle as do the Japanese, with our children and our dogs aboard, without helmets to unbalance our judgement in the heat, and dressed normally.

  9. Posted March 26, 2008 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

    The amount of car travel outside London goes up every year, as does congestion. There are so many cars looking to park that the charge continues to rise, but rather than blame those who own car parks I'd say its the fault of having such an expensive train service and the lack of investment in walking, cycling and public transport.

    The emissions for a car journey for a 50 mile journey are 10 to 20 kg for a car (depending on its size), and 5kg by train. New cars have a high energy cost and are inefficient users of fuel.

    Reply: The comparisons are more complicated than that. Trains are only greener if there are enough people on them. Many trains have old dirty engines and are too heavy.

  10. Atlas shrugged
    Posted March 27, 2008 at 4:39 am | Permalink

    You say "you continue to fight for a smaller more efficient state and less taxation."

    Sorry John to have to say. In that case, you have not been fighting, as you say, anywhere near hard enough.

    There is more to being in opposition then waiting for the 44% of the voting public to finally go half sane and vote for you. When Labour where in opposition they achieved more socialism then I liked even then.

    After 11 years of an extreme socialist government there is little or nothing left of this country worth saving. In fact I have gone from a lover to a hater of every thing this country stands for. Even countries like the Ex Soviet union are more free then this FASCIST, control freaks paradise, in many ways.

    I trust nothing that politicians say. Which is just as well because I like very little that David Cameron says, although I perfectly well understand why he must feel the need to say it. The conservative platitudes are fine, the presentation is sublime. But the real policies like a commitment to pointlessly following the UNs CO2=MMGW high tax, criminally dishonest agenda, frightens the proverbial crap out of me.

    You and our party must start how we mean to carry on. Go in hard on the first day while the opposition is still in chaos. Start by closing down the BBC. Do not privatize it CLOSE IT DOWN, and deregulate the broadcast media as much and ASAP. This is the single most important AND CHEAPEST action a new Conservative government could possibly do to save us from state fascist socialism. If you have no intention of saving us from this evil thing, then what is the point of our party and therefore your entire political life? You could also act fast to reform the smoking laws, they are the most draconian in Europe and bring same on us all. This would also save money as well as being very popular with people that would have never voted conservative for any other reason.

    Rediscover your Randian libertarian intellectual roots, and fast ,or you will lose the young and many of the middle aged voters like myself FOR EVER before the year is out.

    Never allow the Conservative Party ever to be accused of authoritarianism again. We have had more of that over the last decade then we ever want to see for the rest of our lives.

    Except of cause when protecting individual life, liberty and property rights. Remember FREEDOM is VERY POPULAR and VERY CHEAP and often even better then that VERY PROFITABLE for almost everyone.

    You have been warned, please for all our sakes heed this warning, or this country will have a disaffected counter revolution on its hands, at the same time as organized tax strikes, which even life time Conservatives like myself will be helping to contribute too.

  11. Kevin F
    Posted March 27, 2008 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Bristol City Council has (accidentally on purpose?) omitted to mention in its 2008-09 council tax information booklet that if you are sole adult occupier of the property, then a 25% discount applies.

    To be fair to the council official, he did look embarrassed when, after insisting that the said booklet did contain such information, he had to admit it was 'missing'.

    With increasing numbers of divorced and separated people on the council tax register every year, I suppose it's one way of inflating revenues. £400 a year on Band D.

  12. Gricer
    Posted March 27, 2008 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Many of us await the Party's policy for the future on local taxation with interest; this has to be addressed soon.
    The tax base for Council Tax is too narrow; many adults make no or little contribution.
    The level of tax appears to have little relationship to the services provided; the biggest single item being salaries and pension contributions for teachers and other LA employees.
    It has been disproproptionately increased so that Snot Gobbler can claim that taxes on income have not risen. (If not a tax on income what is it?)
    I could go on and on, but please tell us Dave, what you are going to do about it.

  13. Posted March 27, 2008 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    All this confirms my long held view that Mrs Thatcher was right about the so called poll tax. All that happened was that the lefty renta-mob held a few demos and the party traitors (they know who they are) took advantage to get rid of a great PM to advance their own tawdry careers, disappointed third raters that they were/are. They failed anyway, but condemned the rest of us to 10 years of collectivism (word deleted-ed) and the destruction of our country and economy.

  14. jane
    Posted March 28, 2008 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    It is ghastly when you are on a fixed income. And yes, my council tax bill arrived this week and lo and behold, an 80% increase in police precept. I shall have to pay some £256 a year for my local force and hope that the amount is capped. All determined by an unelected police authority! I am sympathetic to you townies but would also point up that all is not well in rural England. We pay huge council tax bills and have limited services. We do not have wheelie bins and have to drive some 10 miles to a recycling centre, 18 miles to an A&E……. We need cars to get around and petrol is expensive. Water bills are up, energy too. I also have to pay more taxation (aged 60-65) as I have lost the 10% tax band.

    The greatest burden now is council tax and it certainly is creating much discussion about the fairness of system. We are tired of the annual above inflation rises, the stupidity of some jobs at local level, the waste of money in producing glossy PR documents in many languages, the ever demanding and inefficient police service precept and, the grossly overpaid bureaucrats, the paid councillorsand, the expectation that we taxpayers will continue to meet all demands willingly.

    We are poorer and can cope with this if we know that public services are efficient and do not waste our money. Sadly, thbis is not so which is why one feels aggrieved.

  15. Posted March 28, 2008 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    John – I see you have edited my last post. I can understand why you did this in our litigious age. The word you deleted also misrepresented the admirable actions of this wonderful Government – the thoughtful way they dealt with Mr Ecclestone's entirely legal lobbying for his excellent F1 business; the fully justified provision of an act of Parliament to the anti-hunting lobby – their contributions to party funding had nothing to do with this at all; the sensitive way the the then Home Secretary dealt with those two charming brothers from the Indian sub-continent; Ms Alexander's admirable fund-raising activities in the face of legal tyranny; and the courageous stand of Mr Speaker against the totally unjustified demands of the incomprehending demotic mob. I am sure I have omitted many other examples of selfless devotion to public duty. I am very sorry to have overlooked all this excellent work and apologise for my thoughtless cynicism.

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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