Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Poor planning leads to Council tax shortfall in Medway?

Councillor Jarrett
Before I start I'm just going to be straight with you and say that I am not just writing this as a Liberal Democrat but also as a concerned resident, tax payer and family man who has to pay the bills with a shrinking income and enlarging bills. So please don't mistake my criticisms as a member of an opposition party and thus baseless or just mindless spin. They are also the very real concerns of a simple man trying to make his way through life with his young family.

In the Medway Messenger on 5th December (page 3 side bar) an article on Tax caught my eye; Fears of tax freeze.

Medway council , has for a couple of years, has kept its Council tax frozen (partly from directives from the Coalition last year and pressure from opposition parties such as Labour and the Lib Dems.) however as the one year, one of Government grant to cover the shortfall is to run out for the next financial year Councillor Alan Jarrett is quoted as saying;

There is a real sustainability issue there. The government grant is for one ear only and it doesn't take much of a mathematician to realise that in the year that follows we would be faced with the problem of a £2.5 million gap to find.

He also warns that if authorities opted to freeze tax next year then in the financial year 2013/14 there would have to be a rise of 5.1% which works out as an extra £5.50 a month for me (around £550's P.A) which doesn't sound a lot but when you factor in that energy bills are going up, rail fare by 6%, VAT stands at 20% and my pay, if it goes up at all, will increase by a staggering 1% so I suffer a financial short fall.

I'll come back to that later...

On the Council side... There has been a VERY real possibility that council taxes will be frozen for a good few years for a while. The hard pressed citizens and voters are simply being pressed to much for funds and yet Cllr Jarrett has not accounted for this in forward financial planning.
It was also known that the Grant from Parliament was for ONE year only and there was never a guarantee that there would be another. After all National Government has to raise and maintain its own funds.

Why was there no further forward planning by the local Conservative administration?

Are there any contingency plans for this financial outcome which has been a possibility? Any money squirrelled away?

It doesn't seem like it.

Instead we read in the local press and Media about lavish expenditure and a lose belt in the financial section. We read of over budget projects like the Bus station, needless blunders such as Woodlands road school, photocopier leases, pathway into Medway park... the list is shocking and concerning to any resident. After all this is my hard earned money being, seemingly, poured down the drain and now they want more cash from me? For what?

It seems equally interesting that this is the same amount of money that could be saved now and double the amount that will be saved annually IF Nelson Court and the other care homes are sold off/privatised/out sourced... Is this a coincidence? Is Cllr Jarrett playing to the crowd to say;

Yes, we don't want to close care homes for the elderly etc... but if we don't your tax will have to go up.

People often back down on their principles when it comes to protecting their own wallets BUT personally I think if that is the case, and I'm not saying it is, I would predict the Council tax would go up anyway and the Care homes sold...

As a tax payer, and IF the rise comes, I want to see much more responsible expenditure from the Council, real value for money - a lot of their services do provide that BUT I don't want to see £X million thrown away, filing error leads to £500 k being lost, I don't want to see expensive regeneration projects mishandled or pointless projects such as city status being taken on in the first place. Use our money wisely or you will suffer in the next round of local elections as people like me get hacked off and change their votes.
I'm going to be honest and say that even though I was a party member I only became truly active as I became more and more angered by the way the Council has behaved with our money.

Plan ahead, think before you do anything, and balance the books and if Councillor Jarrett cannot do those simple things, which by the way things have been going lately it would be fair to level the accusation that he can't, then get some one who can.

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