Paying for local government

I joined in the Parliamentary debate on Council funding on Wednesday. I urged the Secretary of State to complete his review of how much each Council receives, and do more to help Councils like Wokingham and West Berkshire that are at the bottom of the tables for grant assistance.

The government has pledged to come forward with proposals to reduce the extremes between the highest paid and lowest paid Councils in the country. Some say that Councils with substantial deprivation deserve more money than Councils in more affluent areas. Of course if there is more need of public service this should be reflected in grant levels. But we also have  to take into account the higher costs of provision in an area like Wokingham It is also the case that Wokingham and West Berkshire have growing populations of elderly people with excellent longevity, in need of considerably more social care.

Labour criticised the government for treating Wokingham too well compared to areas with higher grants. I pointed out that Wokingham still gets poor treatment in terms of grant per head compared to many parts of the country.

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15 Comments

  1. bigneil
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    With “social care” being this year’s favourite word to get an over the top council tax hike – what will be next years? By which time the EU will have consumed millions more of our pounds, billions more will have been thrown away in foreign aid to end up making criminals richer, millions more wasted on HS2 . . and inevitably hundreds of thousands more new arrivals expecting, and getting, everything provided lives, just as a govt thank you for arriving to put yet more pressure on our finances and services.
    What is the target year for achieving an official “Britain is now a 3rd world country” award?

  2. Lifelogic
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    I am quite sure Wokingham council, like almost all areas of government has plenty of staff doing very little of value who could go. Pay in the state sector when pensions are included are 150% of those of the private sector, they have more sick days and better working conditions too. So at least 1/3 could be saved there. Not that they will do.

  3. libertarian
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Its about time that grants were a minor part of the equation and local areas were allowed to raise and keep their own finance.

    Centralised control of the budget means that the one size fits all stupidity of central government grants has caused the kind of problems that we see in rural towns where councils close car parks and build houses on them and green field sites in order to get more grant money rather than spend on services and infrastructure that is actually needed

    • acorn
      Posted February 26, 2017 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

      I would agree with you libby, but local government spends about a quarter of general government spending, that is about £180 billion a year currently. Council tax is the only “local” tax. Business rates, a national tax, are not currently allocated totally to local government. If they were, local government would be £180 billion minus £58 billion Council Tax and Business Rates equals a shortfall of circa £122 billion. It so happens that VAT currently raises circa £120 billion a year.

      Can you see what I am thinking here libby? Get the FSB on the case.

  4. Narrow Shoulders
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    I would like to see the wage packets of local government executives slashed.

    These people are glorified administrators with no revenue raising initiative. True leaders would find a way to make their assets pay rather than use tax raising powers to fleece their wards.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

      Oh but they due have revenue raising initiatives but rather damaging ones. Mainly various motorist mugging tricks, parking charges, increases in council taxes, charges for more and more “services” and lots of other fines, charges, planning gain taxes and other fairly unpleasant tricks to extract money from the public, even people just putting out their rubbish.

  5. ian
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    The only money councils should get off the treasury is for people who cannot afford to pay their council tax bill because its government responsibility to make sure they have a good paying job so they can afford to pay there should be no grants and should only be borrowing money from the treasury, all other money should come from the people and the limit set at 5% off the people in any one year at the moment which for many councils the full limit will be used for many years to come.

  6. rose
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    It was a depressing sight seeing those socialist women getting up and running down their constituencies. The more you run down your constituency, the more it will get, it seems. It reminded me of the schools manipulating their admissions to get as many children on free school meals as possible – so they could get more money. How does anyone advance with this mentality, and why does the government encourage it?

    On another topic, it was sad to see Stoke staying with its old, neglectful master. UKIP and the Conservatives between them got more votes, but character assassination worked. How much is the education system responsible for exaggerated CVs? I was horrified when my son had to write a “Personal Statement” and so was he. It went against the grain to blow one’s own trumpet. But the school encouraged children to put in everything they could think of and give a good account of themselves. Very unBritish. Now it is considered normal behaviour..

    • hefner
      Posted February 27, 2017 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      Rose,
      Horrified by your son having had to write a “Personal statement”? This has been required common practise by an increasing number of employers for years, and by UCAS if one were to fill the form for university entrance for more than 15 years.
      UnBritish of the 60s, maybe, but not now when it looks very British to me to say that we are the best (…. fill the blank …) in the world.

      • a-tracy
        Posted March 1, 2017 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

        A Personal Statement is a perfect way to identify the riff raff.

        Duke of Edinburgh – tick
        Volunteer work – tick
        Enterprise Project – tick
        Venture Scouts – tick
        Learnt two languages – tick
        A ski trip with school
        An exotic visit to China with school where you did a short course in Mandarin
        A position on the student council
        and on

        You did what have a Saturday job at the local car wash, market or small shop, hmmm.

        What businesses do you know hefner that ask for a University type Personal Statement rather than a cv? Most big companies are going against the way of identifying your university and these type of activities to try to stop recruitment bias. I’d be interested to know which small businesses ask for Personal statements in which industries.

  7. Prigger
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 1:25 am | Permalink

    Astounding result in Copeland.
    The UKIP candle had its last flicker snuffed out there and in Stoke-on-Trent. At best they were a shabby band of travelling fake medicine bottle venders.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted March 1, 2017 at 8:05 am | Permalink

      Well the Tories have become the better BREXIT option. Cameron could easily have won both of his elections will good majorities had be been a small government Brexit man instead of just pretending while really being a dire Libdim. At lease he has done the decent think and gone.

  8. Juliet
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    Labour Councils in deprived areas do not have any sense of value or budget skills, they tend to spend spend spend. And expect to receive more in grants to mis-manage funds not to help it’s existing population or aged community but to dole out vast sums of money on useless not thought through wasteful improvement projects such as redone signage, translation services, hanging baskets, 4-colour A4 newsletters!

    Where is the grant money going?

    Other criticisms is planning applications turning period featured commercial buildings into gearish temples and mosque, and monopoly of retail high street premises into zillions of pawn brokers, betting shops, pop-up £1 emporiums, east european deli’s come off licence come polish coffee shop for east europeans

    At most all the community is not being served adequately. Changing the foundations of 3-4 bedroom Victorian terraced homes into run down 10 bedrooms occupied by 15 individuals is becoming the norm with even more concrete sheds in the garden. Councils overlooking that there deprived areas are resembling slums / shanty towns of 1900s, boroughs in London is prime example, once thriving areas are now depressed dirty shabby and un-policed

  9. alan jutson
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    RG41

    It seems to me that Local Authority’s are now no more than local tax collection, benefits, and social care centres.

    The original purpose of Local Government seems to be fading into lower and lower percentage of what they do.

    They used to manage the local structure to make sure all was well by maintaining roads, paths, street lights, the lopping of trees, the collection of refuse, clearing of ditches and drains, the cutting of the grass and looking after parks and open spaces, recreational facilities, library’s, Schools, Village halls, Social housing, and overseeing local planning needs etc which were all mainly practical tasks etc, etc.

    Now it seems the setting and collection of Council tax, business rates, applications for government grants of all and many types.
    For sorting out social care costs, social care, temporary housing, the paying out of housing benefit, council tax relief, seems to take up a larger and larger percentage of its time etc, etc.

    50 years ago my local Authority used to re-surface our street road once every 4 years, we used to have all of the trees lopped every two years, the roads and paths were swept many times a year, the drains were cleared once a year, the street lights were maintained, the parks had live in park keepers who used to plant flowers, cut the grass and keep them clean and tidy, all parks had working toilets, a clean play area and drinking fountains, and they were locked to ensure no one misused them at night.

    Local Authorities used to employ its own labour and equipment, which gave them full control over their maintainance programme, and the flexibility to respond to most short term emergencies like snow clearance etc etc.

    Clearly times have changed, but perhaps its time for a radical re-think as to what Local Authorities are really for, as the cost seems ever to rise but the actual service and quality and maintainance of the environment in which we live seems reduced.?

    Some things are best funded by central government, and some things are certainly better decided by local people, but central government cannot put legal requirements onto local organisations without giving them the proper funding to carry out those responsibilities, in a timely, full and legally responsible manner, which they themselves have outlined as the requirement.

  10. David Ashton
    Posted February 26, 2017 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    We need a drastic reorganisation of local government. There are too many local authorities, these need to be reduced to 20, about 3 million per authority. Funding at a local level should be by a Sales Tax. This would have the double positive effect. The authorities would need to make their areas attractive to locals and visitors, and keeping the Sales Tax low would be one factor in doing that. Business taxes should be based on GIV, and proportion of this could be used for redistribution by central government.

  • About John Redwood


    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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