Why do I bother paying council tax?
Unfair because as the cost increases (and mine has almost doubled in 10 years) the services supplied seem to have declined. Now we’re on the verge of losing that most basic of householder’s rights: that of a weekly refuse collection. Indeed, for many people, the axe has already fallen on this 125-year-old convention.
It leaves me wondering why I bother paying council tax at all. I mean, what do I get for it? I have no children of school age, so I’m not required to put them through the good school/bad school lottery. Our village has very few street lights, and I don’t want any more anyway. The roads are simply shocking, resembling Eastern European cart tracks with pot holes the size of mine shafts. There is no public transport of any kind within a five-mile radius.
The mobile library calls once a fortnight, while I’m at work (but at least Amazon delivers the next day). All the council houses have long been sold off, and the last thing I want is the idiots at County Hall putting up a low-cost social housing estate full of drunken nurses and gay outreach workers near my country pile, so queering our property prices.
The planning department is an impotent joke to be ignored by the neighbourhood extension merchants, I don’t use public toilets (what’s wrong with a public house?), car parking in our nearest town is barely adequate and the cost has increased by 100 per cent, I shoot stray dogs and pour petrol on angry wasp nests so have no need of pest controllers.
I pay a police precept, but the last time I tried to call at our local nick – in broad daylight – the door was locked. I knocked and knocked, but the young copper inside drew the blinds and hid underneath his desk. (I’d only wanted to report the arrival in the Lower Meadow of some gypsies and to tip off the cops that if any local babies were stolen, that’s where they were likely to be. Perhaps we should just give them a couple of toddlers in return for having our roads tarmacced. Those four horrendous women from Plymouth have a couple to spare, and they’ve already toughened them up.)
So what do I actually get for my two grand a year? I get my bins emptied at 7am prompt every Monday morning by a very nice gang of men who are always willing to dispose of a redundant freezer, a crate of asbestos tiles or a bucket of engine oil in return for the customary Christmas tenner. It is a fast and efficient service, most at odds with the usual public sector creed of dither, delay and disappoint.
But now even this simple benefit (costing me, I reckon, around £36 a week) is under threat. We face the distinct possibility of a fortnightly collection of normal household waste with an interim visit from the recycling truck (accompanied, no doubt, by newly-appointed Recycling Inspectors at £30,000 a time). Well as I’ve said before, life is too short to spend an hour arguing with the wife over whether or not a Cocoa Pops box is suitable for the green bin, so I’ll be restricting my recycling to what I already do now: loading up bin bags of bottles and newspaper into the 4x4 once a week and driving them six miles to the tip.
As for the food waste, packaging, tins and jars, they’ll be going with me on alternate weeks to get tipped in the landfill skip. There’s no way I’m putting up with a stinking pile of bin bags littering the driveway for 10 days at a time throughout the summer. And I’m a responsible person: what about all the scrotes from “social housing” who’ll just chuck their bags of used disposable nappies over the nearest hedge?
Of course, the Waste Police will tell you that if we don’t eat our own weight in polystyrene each week, the nation will suddenly become one huge rubbish dump. What nonsense. I flew over Wales the other week and there are thousands of square miles completely untouched by human refuse. Just one of their medium-sized reservoirs, once emptied and the water sold to Londoners, would accommodate all of our junk for the next decade, no trouble.
The real reason for this abrogation of duty is obvious – cost-savings. Sending the dustbin lorry round half as often will save on labour, maintenance and fuel. (The recycling truck, presumably, runs on potato peelings and yogurt leftovers.) And why do our councils need to save money when the amount of cash flooding in has been doubled? Because the government is about to start fining them if they don’t reduce landfill needs. And why is the government about to start fining them? Because the European Union says so, that’s why.
Now you may have missed this commitment to meet some barmy EU targets making its way through Parliament, where it was debated, discussed and democratically voted upon. That’s because it wasn’t. Mr Blah and his Europhile acolytes happily signed up to this folly without bothering to trouble you or your elected representatives. It’s a done deal and you’d better get used to it, goes the message.
So the madness continues. Happily a couple of newspapers have finally recognised the seriousness of the situation and are set to make this an election issue – not before time. So there is hope if we’re belligerent enough to resist at every level and at every opportunity.
And if, perchance, your environmental conscience is troubling you, just remember that in the time you’ve spent reading this column, China has built another two coal-fired power stations. So if there’s a polar bear drowning somewhere out there, it’s not all your fault.