Sunday, April 29, 2007

Why do I bother paying council tax?

AMONGST THE many extra taxes that have been foisted upon us in recent years – usually without any democratic debate – the increase in the average punter’s council tax is probably the most unfair.

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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

No bins...Yawn.

1:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No brain either ! LOL

7:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Baz your public seem to be deserting you !! Are you now to
''middle of the road''

2:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We're already on fortnightly collections.

We had a note left on the bin today complaining that because of the quantity of waste the lid wasn't fully closed!

4:00 AM  
Anonymous Al said...

Yes, it's amazing what local & central government can get away with in the name of "going green" - higher taxes & reduced services. No wonder it's one of the few things NuLaba & the Tories agree on.

12:49 AM  
Anonymous nobby said...

Does it surprise you that in portsmouth where the 2 week collection policy has been thrust down our throats and employed for as l;ong as i can remember and our local rag caught the council in the act of ditching recycled waste in the general tip because and this is what the council said, Their is not the resources to deal with the amount of recycleable waste and green glass cant even be recycled in britian and has to get shipped to sweden or holland or some such other european country. So how bleedin dare they claim that we can only dump our waste once every 2 weeks

3:26 PM  
Anonymous mook said...

oh for fuck's sake

It's really not such a big deal, and there's a very simple solution:

Jesus Christ!
Is it any wonder the brits have such a reputation for whining.

9:47 AM  
Anonymous Black Dog said...

It proves one thing, though, Mook: elections, be they general or local, are lost or won on strictly parochial issues. Afghanistan and Iraq? Global warming? The creeping tide of American imperialism? None of these things appear to be an issue, and what worries me most is that Blair and whoever the next incumbent is will know this.

It's often been said that politicians have a low opinion of the electorate: didn't Goering say that Germans must learn to prefer guns to butter, and that Americans would never fight a war so long as you gave them a cheap car and plenty to eat?

It seems that wars come second to dustbin emptying. Could it be that the millions they're using on fighting America's war are being clawed back in other ways... such as bin emptying? "F*ck Iraq: get my bin emptied".

2:58 PM  
Anonymous Al said...

Dustbin emptying is an issue in these elections because they are local elections, not a general election.

9:52 AM  
Anonymous Black Dog said...

Dustbin emptying is an issue in these elections because they are local elections, not a general election.- Al.

Fine, Al, but would you not be a tad pissed off at the political party who (fails) to empty your bin if they're also the same party who joins in illegal and immoral wars? "Say what you like about Obergruppenfuhrer Heydrich and his Jews, but he gets our bins emptied". OK, so that's an exaggeration, but you get the idea.

In a sense, all elections are based on local issues. That would explain how many years of Tory government: 1/2 the country did OK under the Tories: the other half got shafted. But local politics are also influenced by international events: British soldiers coming home in body bags, racial tension caused by hysterical and biased media reporting, spin from the politicians etc. This explains the rise of the BNP in local elections.

Also- as a prediction- the general election will be fought and won along petty local issues rather than, for example, Iraq and Afghanistan, global warming etc. Or wherever else Blair and co decide to involve the British armed forces.

It proves Plato's statement that democracy cannot work because the average member of the electorate is too stupid and too small minded to use his/her vote properly.

2:48 AM  

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