Anorak News | One Fine Day

One Fine Day

by | 28th, March 2006

‘WELCOME to 1926 and all that. Today we hark back to the year Turkey switched to the Gregorian calendar, future Queen Elizabeth II was born and Harry Houdini died of gangrene.

When wardens go mad

That was also the year of the General Strike, in which the Trades Union Congress called for a mass walk out in support of a strike by coal miners over pay.

The coal industry is not what it was, but unions can still strike over money matters. Today it’s all about pension rights. (Public sector employees have been assured that current workers can continue to retire at 60 and qualify for a full pension, but council workers will be expected to work until they are 65.)

The unions are wielding what powers they have by asking council workers to stop working at schools, nurseries, libraries, rubbish dumps, social services, the Probation Service and more.

Some better news is that, as the Times reports, traffic wardens will also lay down their armbands and refuse to issue tickets until their demands are met.

As such, it is hard not to give our full backing to the mass 24-gour walkout of up to 1.5 million council workers. Indeed, if the weather was better, we’d urge the wardens not to give an inch and continue their strike indefinitely. On second thoughts, forget the weather. Don’t let a torrential downpour of icy rain move you from the picket line, brothers, sisters and other wardens. Strike! The same goes for school dinner ladies.

But while the workers stop working, should we worry about getting our value for money? Council tax payers cannot strike. They just have to pay. And, as the Telegraph says, they are paying more and more.

The Telegraph has seen the figures and worked out that since 1997, when Labour came to power, the average council tax has almost doubled in England.

Taking into account next month’s rise – 4.5 per cent for band D property (inflation stands at 2 per cent) – average bills have increased from £688 in 1997 to £1,268. Incidentally, as the Guardian says, Sedgefield, Tony Blair’s constituency, has the highest band D council tax in the country, at £1,490

Across all bands, the average council tax burden will be £1,056, a 4.7 per cent rise on last year and, as the Telegraph calculates, nearly £500 more than in 1997.

But it’s not so bad. Really it isn’t. As Phil Woolas, the local government minister, tells the Telegraph: “Council tax is under control, with the second lowest increase in over a decade. The vast majority of authorities have responded to our clear message for low taxes.”

We should celebrate that the tax has not gone up by more? Hurrah! So much for things can only get better; it’s now things could be worse.

Caroline Spelman, the Conservative spokesman, is unimpressed. Says she: “Hard-working families and pensioners are being hit in the pocket by Labour’s tax hikes and have to face the prospect of ever-increasing council tax bills year on year.”

Meanwhile, back at the council offices, the strike is in full swing. And it’s starting to rain…’

Posted: 28th, March 2006 | In: Uncategorized Comment | TrackBack | Permalink