Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Our money is their money

Heard Sir Simon Milton speaking at the NLGN Annaul Conference today. Sir Simon is Leader of Westminster City Council and Chairman of the Local Government Association, representative organisation for councils who between them, spend some £85,000,000,000 of tax payers' money each year. As such, Sir Simon knows a thing or two about local government funding.

So it was all the more compelling when he spoke about the balance of funding between central and local government. It seems that for every pound of taxpayers' cash which is actually raised and controlled locally, a further six pounds is taken by Whitehall in income tax. On top of this come duty on fuel, VAT and a host of other "stealth taxes" from the Labour Government.

In total, Council Tax represents just one twentieth of the money taken from local people by central government.

Compare this with Sweden, where local taxes account for half of the money spent on services - it's the same in Germany, where the amounts taken are equal for national and local government. Even France allows local councils to keep twice the amount we keep in England.

Local councillors are just as accountable as our national Government, and arguably much more connected to local needs and aspirations.

So the next time Gordon Brown or his ministers boast about "giving control to local communities" - try to stifle that hollow laugh...

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