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A guided tour of la la land

It's Monday and the usual torrent of official bumph is deluging on to my desk. It's what makes editors go wild of eye and grey of hair - that's my excuse anyway.

It's Monday and the usual torrent of official bumph is deluging on to my desk. It's what makes editors go wild of eye and grey of hair - that's my excuse anyway.

Much of it comes from my favourite wasters of your money - Rushmoor Council.

Now Rushmoor is run by a very nice, able man in Andrew Lloyd, chief executive, who translates the council's often odd policy decisions into reality.

The trouble is that Andrew doesn't often come face to face with reality, except when he comes out to lunch with me. He inhabits council la la land, where every executive comes with a lovely salary, a superb pension scheme and a nice new car. Oh, and it is almost impossible for them to get the sack.

Now, I don't blame them for this situation, which gets worse every year the Labour government holds office. In fact one in four of the entire working population is now on the official payroll of either central or local government. Public spending has gone from under £300 billion to over £400 billion with £500 billion annually in Brown's sights.

This is why the cost of all government is increasing at a far higher pace than the rate of inflation and means some of the most vulnerable people in this area could be forced to sell their homes. Rises in local taxes of fifteen per cent or more are unsustainable for elderly or low paid homeowners whose incomes rise at two per cent if they are fortunate.

I have heard of people with incomes of £6000 a year after income tax having to pay £1,600 in council tax just to live in their own homes, bought with hard earned, taxed income. In la la land, by contrast, many local government officials are under-employed and on huge salaries, compared to what the rest of us get. Some chief executives of quite ordinary local councils earn in excess of £100,000 a year, although Andrew assures me he doesn't!

That they do not have the pressures experienced in the outside world is shown in the hours happily wasted on schemes like Rushmoor's asinine "comprehensive performance assessment," wodges of which now clutter my desk.

This includes glossy (expensive) brochures full of verbiage like "protecting and improving people's lives" "encouraging a healthy economy" "looking after your environment" etc etc, ad tedium.

In the real world firms come here because of the location, M3 and rail links to London and airports plus the expertise in the long established defence industries. Anything the council and HCC does, in fouling up the A325, for example, and ruining already inadequate roads by blocking them with every kind of bump and build-out, is a hindrance, not a help.

Most former borough activities, like providing council housing, have long since been taken away, and power moves steadily to Europe and regional government. All our overstaffed local councils can do is make a nuisance of themselves to people who want to lop branches off their trees, for example, or declare clapped out bits of towns "conservation areas." Yes, they do sweep the streets and they provide an unexceptional rubbish service, but private enterprise could do far better, as it does in America, with three times a week collections and lots of rival firms vieing for your custom.

Residents and shoppers besieged by wardens and stung by higher parking charges will be amused to see a Rushmoor "priority" is "parking management." Ho ho! Basically, Rushmoor, Hart and Surrey Heath are power towers with the electricity switched off, but where hordes of earnest folk are still grouped round their work spaces, wasting much of their time and our money.

Rushmoor did ask to "engage" with me as a "stakeholder," to use the idiotic jargon so beloved of town halls. I'd like to disengage with them all, keep my own money to spend as I wish and see 90 per cent of them turfed out of their little nests and into the commercial world. Then the sites of their glitzy palaces could be sold off for redevelopment. That is my comprehensive assessment of their performance. Readers who would like to join me in commenting on the value they get from their council can find them on

Or take your complaints - or plaudits - directly to the Audit Commission which is assessing the council's performance, on

Over at Hart, meanwhile, where money is allegedly being saved but £2.5 million is about to be splurged on destroying Fleet High Street and driving shoppers away, the planning department has come up with a new wheeze to rob people of an extra £110.

If your building plans are passed but you later come up with an improvement, you and your builder and architect can no longer just negotiate a simple amendment.

No, you have to submit a whole new planning application, which wastes time, costs money - but keeps the "planners" in cosy but useless employment. Builders tell me this policy is unique to Hart in this area. La la la…

Kelvin MacKenzie, former Sun editor and now heading up The Wireless Group, still knows exactly what the public wants - and has just given the Conservative Party the benefit of his wisdom. Basically he would privatise the BBC, thus removing a drain on our wallets from an organisation known as The Biased Broadcasting Corporation, "pull up the drawbridge on Britain", reduce taxes, and bring back the death penalty for DNA-proven paedophile killers.

To this I would add building a proper network of new motorways, selling off Channel Four, which the Government owns, ceasing all Government interference with the railways, which could in many cases be concreted over and turned into roads, and halving the number of Whitehall and town hall warriers - just as a start. We would also come out of the corrupt, expensive mess that is Europe and boost the size and resources of our armed forces. Oh, and open up some redundant, set-aside fields for something useful, like self build and co-operative build homes for young people and individualists who want to break out of the big builder housing mould. That would do for day one….

*This is the first week that the average person in this country can work and keep the money for themselves. Until now, everything has gone to Gordon "Stealth Tax" Brown, until Tax Freedom Day on June 2, last Monday.

This date is later than ever in coming round and next year will be six days later, while by 2005 we will work for the government until June 9. Yet however much money is confiscated from us and poured into black holes in education and the health service, etc, clearly nothing improves.

The lesson - and, young people, learn this and take action - is that everything run by committees, by central and local government bureaucrats, is a total fiasco.

It is called Fabian Socialism, aided and abetted by the fellow travellers in the Lib Dems and much of the Conservative Party. The past has failed: new thought is needed now.


Charlotte Neal
Chief Reporter (Aldershot)
Joshua Smith
Farnborough Reporter
Jon Couch
Sport Editor
Stephen Lloyd
Fleet & Yateley Reporter
Ros Collins
Junior News & Mail
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