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LAs : Financial Meltdown - Nationwide / Support Services CUTS : Council Tax Rises / Arrears : Pressure On Budgets - Page 5 - Carers UK Forum

LAs : Financial Meltdown - Nationwide / Support Services CUTS : Council Tax Rises / Arrears : Pressure On Budgets

Discuss news stories and political issues that affect carers.
87 posts
So how come what I pay in has risen? Where is it going?
Costs rising , income static ... even with CT rises now offset by record levels of arrears ( 3 in 7 in Worksop ).

Tack on certain " Gold plated " pension scheme deficits ... exact astronomical figure posted earlier in this thread.

Funding from Central Government not even enough to pay off last year's deficits let alone dent this year's larger deficit.

Shades of New York City in 1973 and 1974 ... in 1975 , they went bankrupt , quite literally ... even 8 years later , services were
still below 1974 levels.

Like a doctored fruit machine , Mrs. A ... the more you feed it , the less you get out.

The Major of Liverpool summed it up perfectly ... posted earlier in this thread.
What a surprise ?

RBS sued by Newham council over the terms of £150m in loans.

East London authority files high court claim over lender option borrower option loans.

The research group claims that 42 local authorities in the UK have suffered losses on about £1.4bn of RBS-issued Lobo loans due to Libor manipulation.

The organisation says it has sent letters to the chief executives of all the potentially affected councils to notify them of the deadline.
Why is the tax on a London mansion a tiny fraction of that in New York ?

While libraries and parks close and services for the vulnerable crumble, billionaires pay a pittance in council tax.

Three of the most expensive homes in the world have been sold recently, and to one man. He is the American hedge-fund billionaire Ken Griffin. One will overlook Buckingham Palace at Hyde Park Corner and will cost £100m. Another is a new townhouse across the park at Carlton House Terrace, costing £95m. The third is a penthouse atop a “pencil block” at New York’s 220 Central Park South, costing $238m (£200m). All have been eulogised as “stunning”.

Something else is stunning, but is not reported. The property tax that Griffin will pay to New York on his £200m home will be at least an eye-watering $280,000 a year. But dry the starting tear. He can afford it. Instead, switch to London. Here the sum total of what Griffin will pay Westminster for his pieds-a-terre is just £2,842 – that is the council tax on two H-band properties.

This is the lunatic reality of Britain’s hyper-centralised public finances. The Treasury happily squanders money on its favourites, on defence procurement, high-speed trains and universities. But local government can go hang. Last week came another pathetic bleat from its association, after hearing how much it will not have to run its services next year. The answer is 1.4% lower than four years ago in real terms. This is on top of a 49% real-terms cut in central government funding of local councils between 2010 and 2017.

For a decade councils have been stripping out optional or “discretionary” services, not specifically ordained by central statute. It has butchered youth clubs, health centres, daycare for the elderly, libraries, museums, parks and gardens. Now councils claim they are barely able to sustain statutory “core” services, notably to the old and very young.

Councils have long cried wolf. But any observant user of local services knows a real wolf is at the door. We may not all use youth clubs, home visits or homeless shelters, but we can all see potholes deepening and bin collections dwindling. We see parks untended and museums and libraries closing. We see councils such as Northampton declaring themselves close to bankruptcy.

Last week the commons public accounts committee described the government as “in denial” on the state of council finances, and chastised it for “lacking clear plans for ensuring long-term sustainability”. Councils were allowed to increase local taxes only by inflation, but have received far less central government money as a result. Business rates remain centralised, and anyway tend to benefit richer areas.

The withering away of local taxes has been a tacit and cynical power grab by Britain’s political establishment, ever since Margaret Thatcher capped domestic rates in 1985. She and her successors have sought to make councils little more than executive agencies of Whitehall. Local taxes, according to the OECD, comprise just 1.6% of GDP in the UK, against 5.8% in France, 11% in Germany and 15.8% in Sweden. This is localism in collapse. Accountability through the ballot box is all but insignificant when revenue is so low.

Had domestic rates remained in place as a property tax under Thatcher, and risen in line with inflation (not property values), most people would now be paying double what they are. Domestic rates on my old house in Camden were £3,400 a year in 1989. Today, council tax on the property is just £2,600. With inflation, the tax should be running at £7,200. People may dislike such a rise, but indexation is hardly unreasonable.

Crazier still, council tax bands were fixed so the highest was only three times the lowest, and were never adjusted to reflect rising house prices. Within the top band, West End palaces pay the same as modest terrace houses. As a result, councils have been unable to benefit during the house price boom, as New York did under its former mayor Michael Bloomberg. Stamp duty is Britain’s only price-related property tax, and that goes nowhere near a local council.

An expert on local taxation, Professor Tony Travers of LSE, finds this incomprehensible and absurd. He points out that: “Whitehall treats Britain as if it were a failed state. It is as if local institutions were so weakened that only ministers should be allowed to make decisions on local matters.” Hence the occasional dollops of headline cash for potholes or mental health, carefully ring-fenced so councils cannot “steal” it.

As it is, the world’s rich park their wealth in London with good reason. It is dirt-cheap to do so. I cannot see why Griffin should pay New York a quarter of a million to be kept secure, clean and transported, and not pay a similar amount to Westminster. The rich plead that there are too few of them to make much difference. That is rubbish. The annual tax take from one of Manhattan’s pencil towers must be in the region of £10m a year. That would be one-fifth of Westminster’s total council tax revenue, from one block.

No healthy democracy should deny local people the right to vote and tax themselves for their own benefit. It is democracy’s second nature. Britain is not a banana republic, or a bureaucratised communist state. Taxation is about fairness, and Britain’s local taxes are unfair. There are a thousand Griffins, and tens of thousands of people who, like me, can vote for higher taxes for better local services for everyone. By what distorted ideology is that not permitted?
Basildon Council to sell land it bought for £1 MILLION for £1.

A council is to sell a plot of land it bought for £1m two years ago to the developer of a four-star hotel - for £1.

Basildon Borough Council's oversight and strategy committee approved the scheme for land next to Basildon Golf Club, which will also see it pay an estimated £500,000 for an access road.

The council said the project was "an exciting step forward for the area".

But critics have described it as a "bad deal".

The authority bought the land in March 2017 for more than £1m, according to council papers seen by the BBC, in a bid to ensure a "high quality" hotel was built on the site.
Nottinghamshire County Council scraps disabled childcare subsidy scheme.

Education leaders have clashed over the scrapping of a scheme in Nottinghamshire which provided subsidised childcare for the families of children with disabilities.

A decision was taken today (February 11) to phase out the programme, known as Disabled Children’s Access to Childcare Home Based Packages (DCATCH).

The 46 affected families could have to pay an average of £4,300 per child per year to continue with childcare, a Nottinghamshire County Council report found.

The Conservative-led council said the scheme has effectively been superseded by other, national schemes which have become available since DCATCH was introduced.

But the Labour Party in Nottinghamshire argued the cuts were ‘callous’ and formed a pattern of the council targeting the most vulnerable people in society with its cuts.

The council considered scrapping the scheme entirely from March this year, but instead opted for a phased withdrawal.

It means new applicants cannot apply, while parents already on the scheme will see the amount they have to pay rise from £3.50 to £7.50 from April 2020.

The scheme will then be scrapped entirely in April 2021.

At a meeting on February 11, Labour proposed a more gradual phase out of the scheme, by extending it to 2023 and only increase the charge by 50 pence per hour per year.

But this was rejected by the Conservatives councillors.

Councillor John Peck, Labour’s education spokesman who represents Sherwood Forest on the council, said: “This is a callous and unnecessary move against a small number of families with disabled children.

“It’s what we expect from your party. Your administration recently pushed through proposals forcing some of our most vulnerable adults to pay more for their care packages, in particular those between 18 and 25.

“So this seems to fit in with a policy strategy of targeting vulnerable groups of people.

“In your statement to the Nottingham Post last week, you stated we were just chasing cheap headlines by taking this view, but frankly I find this a bit rich from someone who plays to the gallery every time he speaks, but actually I consider it a cheap remark.

“We are the opposition party, and if we don’t question your actions and speak up for these families then who will?

“You will just continue picking off easy targets unless we stand up for these people. In the end it comes down to having different values. We have different priorities and we make different choices.”

Councillor Philip Owen, head of the committee which took the decision today, accused Labour councillors of ‘emotional claptrap’.

The councillor, who represents Nuthall and Kimberley , said: “We are not targeting vulnerable groups in the way you suggest, this was initially a trial for several years, which it was thought might encourage the uptake of childcare.

“A trial is exactly that, you trial something to see if it works, and what was found was that there was no increase in uptake, the trial failed if you like, so the Government pulled the funding after the trial period when it was demonstrated that it didn’t work.

“The situation has moved on because now parents are able to access the funding through a variety of different benefits so what’s the point in us spending county council money – which is in short supply – on something that is being paid for through Government funding.

“We accept that to do a sudden change could cause problems, so that’s why we have a phased approach so parents can make the necessary arrangements.”
Council tax to rise across England as austerity hits hard.

" Chronic underfunding " forces cuts to services including social care, roads and libraries.

Almost all councils in England plan to increase council tax from April and three-quarters intend to raise it above 2.75%, research reveals.

The maximum rise allowed without a local referendum is 2.99%. Similar proportions plan to raise charges and fees.

Despite council tax bills soaring, many residents face further cuts in services. Most councils warned that they would be reducing a range of services, from adult social care to libraries and recycling.

The annual survey by the Local Government Information Unit thinktank found that cuts were increasingly visible and that after eight years of austerity – which has cost English councils 40% of their central funding – half of councils felt cuts were now “negatively affecting relationships with citizens”.

Cuts to services such as pothole repair, waste collection, school crossing patrols and libraries proved especially unpopular, the research found. Last week Somerset and Northamptonshire county councils reversed winter gritting cuts after a public outcry when untreated roads caused several car accidents during the recent cold snap.

One in 20 councils said they were concerned that funding cuts were now so deep that they would struggle to deliver the legal minimum level of services. Almost one in 10 anticipate legal challenges from the public against proposed cuts in service provision.

The survey found 80% of councils have no confidence that the current model of local government finance is sustainable. More than half have drawn down reserves to stay afloat. More than three-quarters have borrowed cash to invest in commercial property in the hope the returns will cover budget gaps.

“Now more than ever we need a thriving, resilient local government sector to weather the storm of national uncertainty, but years of chronic underfunding has left local government on life support,” said the chief executive of the thinktank, Dr Jonathan Carr-West.

Councils are increasingly concerned over the instability of their finances, amid fears that up to 15 authorities may follow Northamptonshire county council into insolvency. Others fear that the cost of balancing the budget will come at the expense of vital services.

Cllr Richard Watts, the chair of the Local Government Association’s resources board, said: “This survey illustrates the severity of the challenge facing councils, with government grant funding at the lowest it has been for decades at the same time as demand for services, such as adult social care, children’s services and homelessness support, has grown.”

Nearly a third of councils (29%) were planning cuts from April in adult social care, 24% plan to reduce children’s care services, 16% to reduce special education and disability support, one in 10 plan to cut homelessness support and nearly a fifth will cut grants to the local Citizens Advice bureaux.

Almost half were planning further reductions in arts and culture (46%), parks and leisure activities (45%), roads (38%), libraries (32%) waste collection (22%) and recycling (11%).

Areas where councils say they will introduce or raise charges include garden and bulky waste collection, parking, leisure facilities, planning, adult social care, electric vehicle charging points, registrar services, cremation and burials, licensing (taxis, venues, landlords), pest control, public toilets, replacement bins, community meals, and council venue hire.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “We are investing in Britain’s future by providing local authorities with access to £91.5bn over the next two years to meet the needs of their residents. Authorities are receiving an £1bn extra in funding this coming year to help deliver local services.”
Cuts to adult social care transport service considered by Calderdale Council's bosses.

Use of technology, stopping its internal courier service and reducing spending on private hire vehicles are all methods which will be used to put a brake on council spending on transport – but more savings will still have to be found.

Calderdale Council’s Transport Services department only has a budget of around £3 million a year but is earmarked to save almost £1 million.

Calderdale Council’s Cabinet heard the service had been problematic in financial terms for some time but it had already made around half of the necessary savings going forward.

However, with savings identified looking set to save £79,000 in 2019-20 and £112,000 in 2020-21 against savings targets of £381,000 and £348,000 respectively still to be met, other savings options will have to be explored.

These could include streamlining the council’s fleet of vehicles used to transport adult social care clients with learning disabilities – or even not providing the non-statutory service at all.

But a member of the public warned members some areas earmarked for savings were not the right way to go about it.

Cabinet member for Communities and Neighbourhood Services, Coun Susan Press (Lab, Todmorden), said the £1 million saving was against the backdrop of £100 million cut from the council’s budget since 2010.

“As part of measures we are taking, the budget should be reduced by more than £1 million. Significant progress has already been made delivering almost £500,000 of savings,” she said.

Cabinet agreed to introduce vehicle telematics – for example global positioning systems (GPS), ceasing to run an internal courier service and reducing taxi spend – including on private hire vehicles.

Coun Press said telematics would maximise efficiency and other savings could be made in operating costs, using hire vehicles and buying fuel more efficiently.

Members also endorsed the approach to achieve the balance of savings still required through working with Adults and Children Services, the directorate which uses many of the transport services – including statutory home-to-school transport and non-statutory adult day care transport, for example – and looking at how the Transport Service might generate income.

A business case is being prepared to see whether it is viable to create a second MOT bay at the council’s Battinson Road transport depot by refurbishing an existing but out-of-use one to offer an MOT service to council staff and the public to raise revenue.

But Geoffrey Fielden, invited to speak to councillors, said the courier service was often used to deliver very delicate documents while using vehicles to support children’s and adults’ social services were helping vulnerable people.

“They are talking about access to adult social services for vulnerable people,” he said.

“If adult social services want to buy a service surely they should be allowed to do so.

“And if the Chief Executive plans on wanting to take members to show them something they shouldn’t be asked ‘what for’,” he said.

The vehicles were extremely viable for the council, he added.

“They go to distant schools taking very vulnerable and delicate children – sometimes they need the same driver all the time to establish a relationship with them. That service can’t be delivered by van,” he said.

Leader of the Council Coun Tim Swift (Lab, Town) said Mr Fielden’s comments would be taken on board.

Coun Geraldine Carter (Con, Ryburn) suggested a cross-party working group be formed to ensure Transport Services met the budget available.

Coun Swift said when decisions over children’s transport, for example, were going to be made that would be a suitable time to take the issue to scrutiny or form a working party.

Calderdale’s Transport Services is effectively split into two areas.

Vehicle Services, taking in cross-council fleet procurement and management and vehicle maintenance, is currently projecting an under-spend on its £270,000 annual budget.

Transport Operations takes in home-to-school transport, providing transport assistance to those who qualify, delivering such services for eligible children with special needs and adults with learning disabilities and takes up the lion’s share of the remaining budget.
Conservative London borough council with one of lowest tax rates in country " Exploiting " low-paid workers, union claims.

Wandsworth accused of using outsourced staff from private firms to avoid paying London Living Wage.

A flagship Consevative council has been accused of “exploiting” low-paid workers while boasting it offers its taxpayers some of the cheapest council tax rates in the country.

The GMB union has claimed Wandsworth Council in southwest London is not paying the capital's living wage of £10.55 an hour for some roles by outsourcing the work to private firms.

Less than a week ago, the local authority announced it was set to approve a budget, which would keep its council tax among the lowest in England.

Under the spending plan, a Band D home in the borough would pay just £770.31 in council tax, around half the average for a similar home elsewhere in the capital.

The council told residents they would still be: “continuing to benefit from one of the lowest council tax bills in the country”.

However, GMB, which represents staff employed by outsourcing contractors, accused the council of making savings by using workers from private companies to carry out tasks such as street cleaning, park maintenance and parking enforcement.

Staff providing council services from outside firms Quadron and ISS were being paid the national minimum of £7.83 an hour, while street cleaners employed by Continental Landscapes received £8.50 an hour, it claimed.

“Sadly, many seem oblivious at this exploitation of the lower paid workers many of whom are migrant workers working directly for them to keep the streets clean,” Paul Maloney, GMB Southern Regional Secretary said.

He added that the "exploitation" of the staff "working directly for the public in a borough with average earnings for residents working full time of £64,761 has to stop."

He said: "These lower paid workers deserve the support of the all fair minded people.”

The only Conservative council in inner London, Wandsworth is has been Tory-controlled since 1978.

It is often held up by the party as a model of good governance for its other local authorities across the country.

A council spokesman said: “A December meeting of Wandsworth Council welcomed the fact that the council currently pays all its staff at least the London Living Wage. Councillors also debated and unanimously agreed to record its support for all businesses in the borough, including the council's own contracting partners, who are taking steps to pay their London-based employees a London Living Wage.”
87 posts