Putting People First – Who Will Pay?
If there is one thing that just about everyone, well everyone who isn’t a millionaire but only a mere ordinary member of society agrees on it is that the rich bastards who avoid paying tax should not be allowed to continue to get away with it.
The problem is do ‘ordinary tax payers’ also mind paying tax.
Im one person who doesn’t for the simple reason that it pays for the National Health Service, Armed Forces, Education, Police and many other things that I am happy to contribute to and know that only through a universal taxation system will survive.
The one area of taxation that seems to annoy people is of course when they see their taxes being used to subsidise millionaire business leaders which allows them to employ people on minimum wages and zero hour contracts.
And don’t get me started on the politicians both national and local who are lining their own pockets by taking huge amounts of tax payers money out of the trough.
In terms of Local Authorities the question as I see it is that they have to be honest about what they spend our taxes and especially our Council Tax on which means holding Local Councillors to account.
I’ve written before about the Cllr David Mackintosh “MackCon” over his claims that freezing Council Tax was to help “hard working families” when in effect a freeze is effectively a saving of less than 5p a week to the Council Tax payer.
The question is how much are people willing to pay and on what does it depend?
As we approach the Borough Council Election in May and all of the parties finalise the manifesto which they hope will gather enough votes to give them power in the Guildhall I would like to share a few ideas that would be in my Manifesto.
Councillor Allowances Policy
I would put a freeze on all Councillor Allowances for another four years which incidentally and much to the annoyance of many of the Conservative Councillors who hoped that once elected it would dropped, was the first decision I took in 2011.
I think the statement by a senior Conservative immediately following the election in 2011 “that’s another fat cheque for four years” sums up many of my former colleagues attitude to what being a Conservative Councillor really means to them.
With regard to councillor allowances and expenses I would also immediately change the Constitution and put in place a new process for paying Councillor Allowances that would make them more accountable to the people they are elected to represent.
In simple terms Councillors would only be paid 50% of their allowances every month with the other 50% being paid quarterly being dependant on their performance which would include attending a minimum of 80% of the meetings they are scheduled to attend and putting out an information leaflet every three months to EVERY resident in the Ward they represent paid for from their allowances.
The first would provided clear value for money to the tax payer and financially penalise those who don’t attend.
The second would ensure that all residents receive information from their Councillor/s at least four times a year and stop the current situation where Councillors don’t contact people until an election looms or more cynically only contact those they think will vote for them. They would also have to provide evidence that they have fully met the requirements to revive pay,net of their allowances.
I would change the expenses process so that NO expenses can be claimed for meetings that Councillors attend in Northamptonshire, and that for meetings outside of the County car use mileage will only be paid a 30p a mile.
Rail travel would be restricted to Second Class travel only.
Council Tax Policy
This will always be a problem with the public because of the public perception, which sadly in the last 4 years under the Northampton Conservatives has been a reality, that Councillors spend tax payers money on pet projects whilst cutting front line services.
I propose that Council Tax in Northampton be increased by 5p a week in Year 1 which would raise £230,000 in revenue, and that in Years 2, 3 and 4 it is raised again by 5p annually so that in Year 4 residents will be paying an additional 20p a week in Council Tax.
It is a proposal for the whole four year term I would introduce in the first budget so people will know exactly what is going to happen.
The income raised would be Year 1 £230,000,Year 2 £460,000, Year 3 £690,000, Year 4 £920,000 a cumulative total of £2.3 million over the four years.
Under my proposals the whole of the Council Tax increase raised would be “ring fenced”, and the Constitution changed so it could not be undone, to deliver essential front line services to the people of Northampton.
More a Conscience Tax than Council Tax.
Would people be prepared to pay an additional 5p a week £2.60 a year if they knew that £150,000 a year (£600k over 4 years) was going to be spent on supporting the towns elderly, vulnerable, homeless young people and those suffering from disability?
Would people be prepared to support families who find themselves, through no fault of their own having to sacrifice their pride by turning to food banks to put food on the table to feed their children.
Under my proposal £20,000 a year would be ring fenced to provide food for the food banks but that we only buy from companies who will match it 1 for 1 increasing the amount of funding to £40,000 a year.
Let’s see if the major retailers really are community spirited or simply the avaricious parasites that many believe they are.
So why aren’t we honest and explain what taxes will be spent on, such as supporting victims of Domestic Violence, providing facilities for youth groups and young children in the Borough and supporting those community groups working with the vulnerable and those cleaning up and protecting the environment?
I believe that if we clearly set out who and what it will be spent on the vast majority of the electorate would be happy to pay an extra 5p a week.
Even the Northampton Conservatives despite their continuing claims that Northampton is “cleaner and greener” than ever before can’t hide the fact that there own Performance data demonstrably shows that they have consistently failed to meet their targets and that the Enterprise Environment contract is an abject failure.
How the person who negotiated the contract in the first place is still employed by the Northampton Conservatives is beyond me. In any other organisation someone who led the negotiations and was responsible then for implementing it would have been long gone.
A first priority should be to start the negotiation of the Enterprise Environment contract. The current contract was for seven years and so is due to either be replaced or renewed in three years time.
It is time that the needs of the people of Northampton are put first and there are a number of things that should be in the new contract that I think should not be negotiable.
Amongst which there should be a commitment that rubbish would be collected Monday to Friday only, and a stop put to the ludicrous Saturday collections.
Residents who have had Saturday collections imposed on them are invariably faced with issues of what to do at the weekend if they want to go away and especially during the holiday period. Do they put their bins out and leave them out all day and if there is no one to bring them in all day Sunday as well? Perfect notification to those who are interested in who is and who isn’t at home.
The other problem is that missed Saturday collections is are invariably not collected until the Monday because there is no one to report them to. The same applies to fly tipping on a Saturday which cannot be reported until Monday and which under the two day clearance rules is not collected until Wednesday.
Under my proposals the office to report missed collections and fly tipping would be open until 9 o’clock on Friday night and Saturday will be designated for the collection of missed bins and the clearance of everything else.
There should be a clear commitment that at least SUNDAY will be a day when the people of Northampton can expect their areas to be clean and clear of rubbish and fly tipping.
The multi ‘small’ bin system of recycling boxes should be scrapped and replace with another ‘wheelie bin’ for recycled items as is used extensively and successfully in other parts of the Country.
I would propose that the collection of bulky items should be free and the current charges be scrapped and also that those caught or identified as responsible for fly tipping should be fined a Minimum of £500 for a first offence and an minimum of £1,000 for any subsequent offence.
Parking and Transport Policy
I wrote on this subject on the 24 February Northampton Town Centre – Time to Put People First, which interestingly some ideas seem to have been taken up.
An immediate action would be to re-pedestrianise Abington Street by simply erecting No Entry signs to prevent vehicles from using it as a cut through. Ignore the cries from the Northampton Conservatives and especially Cllr Mackintosh about how they spent £6 million on reopening it to traffic and so it should stay.
All parking in Northampton Borough Council Owned car parks should be FREE for the first hour, and I do mean “Free for the first hour” not “Up to an hour” and then a flat rate of £1 to park Monday to Friday. People working in Northampton would pay a maximum of £5 a week to park in the town.
All parking in NBC Car Parks at weekends and Bank Holidays will be FREE and it will also be FREE in the two weeks that include two before Christmas.
The advantages to this policy would firstly be to make ‘on street’ parking, managed and controlled by the Conservative County Council uneconomic and force them to match the charges of the Borough Council.
Secondly it will help Northampton business by making it more economically accessible to employees and FREE parking would remove at least one of the barriers to people visiting the town centre.
Alongside encouraging car users to visit Northampton we would also need to encourage more use of public transport which the farce that has been seen around the Northgate Bus Station for the past 12 months has to be addressed.
It is simply not acceptable in the 21st century to have people waiting and sweltering in a glass house in the summer and freezing in the same building in the winter just to satisfy the ego of Cllr Mackintosh who continues to claim, against all of the evidence that it is one of “his” greatest successes and legacy to the town. I’m sure for £12 million, which was the total cost of moving the bus users out of Greyfriars to Ransome Road and build Northgate Bus Station people don’t agree with Cllr Mackintosh it has been “Value for Money”.
It is also unacceptable for people to be abandoned to wait in all weather conditions in the Drapery or to have to wait for National Bus services in what is effectively an out of town car park.
It is time to look again at our bus users and support them by building robust and comfortable shelters on the former GreyFriars Bus Station site to take people off of the Drapery and provide them with the first class facilities they deserve and an interchange for National transport users.
I find it cynically amusing that Cllr Mackintosh and Cllr Hadland are now starting to agree that the site should be used for what they are calling a ‘Transport Hub’ when in the past they have extolled their own virtue of having a definite Plan B in place and were talking seriously to a number of retail developers?
What ever happened to their Plan B for retail development on the site following the decision by Legal and General to walk away from Northampton because of the ‘lack of support from the Northampton Conservative Council in recent times’?
Would it be wrong of me, and I wonder how many agree, that in fact there has never been a Plan B for retail on the site if Legal and General didn’t go ahead which begs the question why did Cllr Mackintosh and Cllr Hadland say there was?
Political squirming at having failed perhaps, or was it simply more porkies?
The question is whether any of the political parties will take up the challenge to put people before pet projects?
Certainly from their record the Northampton Conservative led by Cllr Mackintosh won’t put people before their own self-interest.
We will have to wait for the manifesto promises to come out, wouldn’t it be surprising if some or all of these are included, and if they are, should I take credit for them???