Readers demand more frugal councils
By Ted JeoryPERPLEXED Council Tax payers have responded in force into the East Anglian Daily Times' War on Council Waste campaign.Residents across the region have written in, backing the EADT's initiative, which asked residents to suggest ways for authorities to save money and avoid huge rises in Council Tax.
By Ted Jeory
PERPLEXED Council Tax payers have responded in force into the East Anglian Daily Times' War on Council Waste campaign.
Residents across the region have written in, backing the EADT's initiative, which asked residents to suggest ways for authorities to save money and avoid huge rises in Council Tax.
The financial situation for local authorities in Suffolk is precarious with the county council and seven borough and district councils reeling from below-inflation rises in their Government grants.
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Suffolk County Council said it needed an extra £29million from the Government to maintain its services, but got just £21m.
There are fears funding deficits will see taxpayers hit in the pocket with another big hike in Council Tax, with householders facing rises of about 10%, following on from last year's record-breaking 18.5% increase.
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Council finance bosses said they would have to work harder to make savings to balance their books - particularly as the Government said it would not tolerate Council Tax rises of more than 10%.
EADT readers were quick to come forward with their suggestions on where councils could cut out wasteful expenditure - and where they could generate more income.
An 82-year-old Babergh district resident said: “I have in my possession today 72 pink bags from Babergh District Council.
“What should I do with them? My I suggest plain common sense would go a long way to reducing waste, as this scheme seems to be based on the principle of one-size-fits-all.
“I am aged 82, a one-person household. I don't consume much - I couldn't carry it - and I can't afford to.
“No doubt everyone concerned has a good university degree or similar, but there seems to be a lack of good old-fashioned common sense which would go a long way to controlling waste.”
Patricia Ward, 53, from Aldeburgh, said: “We have a high proportion of second homes and a majority of people feel that everyone should start to pay the same Council Tax for each house.
“It's not fair they are having discounts and not putting anything into the welfare of the area. Some are renting them out and making fortunes on them.
“There is also a lot of money spent on tourism on things such as leaflets which do not make much difference. The people are coming in anyway.”
A retired man from Felixstowe suggested cutbacks in council offices and added: “How about turning the temperature down in all council offices?
“Why do we see office workers wearing short sleeves to work in the winter? They should also do away with any council worker with the word 'liaison' in their title.”
As a keen cyclist, he also suggested councils should invest no further in cyclepaths that he claimed were barely used.
Donald Harvey, who lives near Hadleigh said: “They have never published a league table of all the staff employed by the council.
“It would be interesting to see a list of all the different employees that are on the council's wage bill.”
Gerald Black, from Woolpit, said: “I would like to see them get rid of the basic allowance for all councillors and instead it should just be the portfolio holders who receive extra money for the work they do.
“They should return to the old system where councillors received a loss of earnings allowance and had their expenses paid.
“For example, if a man owns a small business and has to miss work for meetings, then I have no problem with him being reimbursed.
“However, generally I think most councillors just follow the council leader and should not receive a basic allowance.”
Helen Barker, from Knodishall, said: “I dread to think what an increase in Council Tax like last year might do to us normally level-headed homeowners.
“To add insult to injury, I can't believe that the councils in our area are still debating over whether to increase Council Tax charges to holiday homeowners in the Suffolk Coastal area.
“I believe I am right in thinking that only Waveney so far have stuck their necks out and agreed an increase.”
She added: “Whilst I have nothing against holiday homeowners, it does seem to be an untapped and not inconsiderable source of income for councils in this area.
“Although a reduction in tax for empty properties is great for the second homeowner, but it is not cost effective for the Council.
“I would also like to know what the extra 18.5% increase was spent on last year as I personally saw nothing in return from it.
“Was it spent on salaries, bonuses and pension increases? At what point is it going to stop? The council can't increase our tax by up to 10% year on year.”
She continued: “My Child Benefit hasn't increased by that and neither has my husband's salary.
“I say look at income from other sources before increasing tax on the full-time inhabitants of rural areas.”
Alan Hales, from Horham, said: “I believe a significant proportion of the excessive increase in this tax has been snatched by hikes in the salaries of council employees and the recruitment of additional employees as dictated by this present central - and centralising - government.
“Perhaps, most importantly, pensions for the public sector are paid from ongoing tax collections and are index-linked.
“Year on year we simply pay more and more in to the public sector pension fund to support people who no longer work for us.”
“Why do we not insist that the public sector makes its own pension arrangements, with insurance based pension providers, as the rest of us have to do? Why should we continually be milked?
“It is not a case of how many millions this would save, but how many billions?”
n Readers can suggest ideas in writing to War on Council Waste, EADT Newsdesk, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, by telephone on 01473 324737, by fax to 01473 211391 or by email at email@example.com.