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Time for a tax revolt - ALAN FRANKLIN'S personal opinion

This is the time of year when council tax demands thud, unwelcomed, on to our doormats.

This is the time of year when council tax demands thud, unwelcomed, on to our doormats.

The real pain comes from knowing that, as with all taxes, stealthy and otherwise, much of the money is just hosed down the drain.

Paying for the profligacy are people like £6,000 a year pensioners asked to fork out sums like £1,600 to keep the folk at some of our town and county halls in the style- and pensions - to which they are accustomed.

Huge salaries go to many of the not overly stressed executives in these mini Kremlins, where plots are hatched to block up roads, spend delightful days in "best practice" exercises and print glossy magazines extolling their own virtues. In return they receive salaries sometimes in six figures. Plus free cars. Plus very generous pensions. Plus little in the way of real work. Just for a day I would like readers to glance at some of the local and national government inspired rubbish that clogs up my e-mail screen, chokes our fax and lands in our letterbox each day.

If the full extent of the stupidity of many of the actions taken "on our behalf" was realised, I think there would be poll tax style unrest. Let's see if I can ignite some righteous indignation.

Last week, neighbouring Lib-Dem run Guildford Council, as part of some idiotic "wimmin's" festival, paid some female to erect 28 red tents on a local hillside, as some kind of art statement.

Rushmoor wants to horn in on your diet and boss you about when you prepare meals, as part of "Rushmoor Healthy Living." There's plenty of cash for all that talk about lettuce leaves: the ever-benevolent Government has doled out three quarters of a million smackers from the "New Opportunities Fund" (new opportunities to waste money, presumably) to "address local health inequalities. These include youth mentoring, music and art therapy, breakfast clubs, etc etc."

As a taxpayer I needed some therapy after reading this, but then interference in our lives, particularly the lives of the young, is a prevailing theme under this government. Did you know, for example, that £500 million a year has been earmarked so that every young person in the land has access to a "mentor?" This is a scheme called "Connexions," which means "yoof" can get free advice, although presumably not on spelling. I pointed out that this is what parents are for, but they just laughed. "I bet you're in nice plush offices," I said. "Oh yes, they gushed," not realising the irony in my voice….

Rushmoor, which loves printing glossy brochures at your expense, has produced what all taxpayers about to raid their meagre bank balances to pay their disgustingly high bills need: a directory for the "arts."

They have already produced two brochures covering dance and music concerts, presumably for those too idle to find out for themselves what's going on - for example, by looking in the local press, or switching on their computers and scanning the web.

Over in Berkshire they've gone one better - they are teaching mothers how to breastfeed, something women have previously managed without council busybodies getting in the way. The Breastfeeding Support Centre is now open for business.

Bracknell Forest looks after the elderly as well - and not just by emptying their wallets when tax time arrives. They are doing an "older people's best value review," on which many hundreds of hours can no doubt be happily wasted, prior to the production of vast reports which nobody reads.

Not to be outdone, Surrey's press office tells me proudly of "young Surrey actors in National Theatre initiative," the world's largest "celebration" of youth theatre. One play, set in a "cold, dark, underground room beneath an old factory," is said to "delicately explore the desire to express oneself through music- and questions our desperation to belong." I question my desperation to belong to an area that pays for stuff like this. Almost every press release I get is like this. Here's one from the "office of the Deputy Prime Minister" - Two Jags (and three homes) himself.

It's proudly headed: "Hampshire receives £1.8 million to empower deprived communities." They love words like "empower." Personally I would fire anyone who used such idiotic terms. But I digress.

Some £500 million has already been poured into this particular black hole, with delights such as a new "sexual health clinic" for Southampton. There are support services for teenage mothers and much more of the same, presided over by, of course, a "Minister for Social Exclusion and Equality."

If this is enough to make you want a cigarette, beware, the anti-smoking thought police - funded by you - are on your trail. Now I loathe smoking, have never smoked and wish nobody else did. But it is - just - still a free country. We do not need Big Brother advising us that smoking stinks.

What we do need is a massive cull of central and local government officers, a huge cutback in their utterly futile and busybodying attempts to change our lifestyles and an acknowledgement that we, the people - you and I - are the best people to manage our own money. Want art? Then pay for it. Don't ask me to subsidise your whims.

I doubt if any of the political in-crowd will go for the above. The turkeys won't vote for Christmas. Instead Hart plans to abolish perhaps the only thing it provides that is useful: public toilets.

We need a new breed of revolutionaries on all councils - peeved taxpayers who have had just about enough. Then we'd flush away some of this rubbish.

Boring as it is, some of us will have to stand for election. There is still time to talk to the returning officer and get your name in for local elections in May. Are there any new leaders out there who will raise a standard for the taxpayer?


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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