More tax – but fewer services

IN this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and an annual increase in council tax. The argument as to whether it was Franklin or Defoe who first wrote or muttered the original version of that sentence can be put to one side for a moment.

IN this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and an annual increase in council tax.

The argument as to whether it was Franklin or Defoe who first wrote or muttered the original version of that sentence can be put to one side for a moment. It is not what concerns me here.

What is of concern is the amount of money councils are trying to squeeze out of us again in the latest round of council tax hikes.

The Government advised councils that it does not "expect" an increase of more than five per cent this time around. My guess is they fear an uprising.


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So what do we get? An increase of exactly five per cent from Hertfordshire County Council.

In addition to this increase we also get the usual mutterings from those in charge on how the council is being generous to council tax payers for increasing its precept by such a small amount.

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The leader of the county council David Beatty said: "It's the third year running that we have been able to propose an increase which has not gone above five per cent."

Well, someone give that man a pat on the back. Hasn't the council done us proud?

Well no, not really. Five per cent is £49.18 for a Band D property and that's a lot of money to a lot of people.

In addition to the county council's increase, North Hertfordshire District Council has announced that it intends to put up its precept by 4.9 per cent.

Now I realise that councils need the taxes to finance services. That is simple to understand.

But when you see what North Hertfordshire District Council has succeeded in doing this past year, or is planning to do next year, you start to wonder if there will be any services left to finance.

It is putting Hitchin Town Hall out to tender, and there is still confusion over the future of Baldock Town Hall.

They have decided to do the same with Hitchin market, and you'll remember that they were outbid last year in attempting to retain the running of the market in Baldock.

It has also announced that it will be cutting its funding to the dial-a-ride service.

This means one of the two buses currently running will be pulled from the roads and the council is aware that the one remaining bus will not be able to cover all the extra trips.

The council is also planning to cut its subsidising of bus services, which will see some disappear from our timetables.

Finally, the council has decided to rearrange the political structure in North Hertfordshire because, they say, they want to save £50,000.

This would, of course, lead to the amalgamation of area committees which would lead to the Hitchin area committee being torn from the hands of Labour and put into the hands of the Conservatives.

If the council is desperate to save £50,000 I have a better idea. It should cut down on the amount of paper it uses. After all it expects to spend £78,430 on the stuff this financial year.

Maybe it should also think about cutting the amount of allowances councillors receive - £211,230 is predicted to go towards that this year.

But I very much doubt whether they will consider doing that.

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