Monday, 28 December 2009

Taxpayers to fork out over £10 million in redundancy payments to MPs

Sky News is reporting up to one  in four MPs may quit over the expenses scandal. The bad news for taxpayers is this may result in £10.8 million worth of redundancy payments.

In our area, this means John Prescott will receive  bumper payout, as will maybe hundreds of MPs across the country. Read the story HERE.

How many council snoopers can enter you home?

Big Brother Watch recently sent out Freedom of Information requests to every council in the country to find out how many of their employees have the right to enter your home. For our region, the results are alarming.

According to the Hull Daily/East Riding Mail today, 115 council employees from the East Riding of Yorkshire Council can enter your home using 1043 different powers. In Hull, the picture is better, but there are still 33 employees who can use these powers.

To give some perspective, the national average is 47 officials per local authority. This places Hull below the national average and the East Riding almost two and a half times above the national average.

If anyone needs evidence of how the bully state is entering our lives in ways very few people are aware of, this is it. One of the questions on the lips of many people in the East Riding is why County Hall in Beverley needs to give so many of its officials such sweeping powers. Another question is why parliament has allowed councils to have these powers in the first place. The council’s reply will make interesting reading and all of this needs to be addressed by a future government.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Thoughts on Hull’s World Cup Bid

The headline in the Hull Daily Mail said  it all today, ‘We Was Robbed!’ The bid to attract World Cup football to Hull has cost somewhere in the region of £125,000, but this is something that doesn’t bother me. If Hull had been included in England’s bid and then England had gone on to host the 2018 tournament, an estimated £64 million worth of investment was likely to come to the city. As they say on National Lottery advertisments, you have to be in it to win it. Hull was in it and why it was passed over for somewhere like Milton Keynes is confusing to say the least.

If  we are to take something positive from this, it is that Hull is rapidly getting a reputation as a player. People from around the country are beginning to see Hull is not a backwater, no-one in their right minds would want to visit. Hull City’s elevation to the premier league has hugely helped with the positive image Hull is projecting and visitors to the city are positive in their feedback.

Hopefully, we will win our bid to become the City of Culture and help raise Hull’s profile more. This – along with lower taxes and less regulation – is the main way investment is going to pour into the city. 

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

ERYC Car Parking Review Panel

Almost 6 months ago I wrote about the car parking charges review panel set-up by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC). This has been a long running saga. Some councillors feel it is not fair that people have to pay to park in places like Beverley and Bridlington, but not in other places, such as Cottingham and Anlaby. A lengthy review has taken place, culminating in roadshows in June, gathering residents’ views on whether they want to pay to park their vehicles in car parks that are currently free.

Six months on, and we still await a decision for the parking review panel. A report in the Hull Daily/East Riding Mail today has highlighted how frustrated traders are across the East Riding. They want a decision, which is the least they can expect after such a long time. I wish they had just made a decision, right or wrong. You can always come back and review your decision at a further date. This procrastination and inertia only serves to give the impression ERYC cannot make a decision. Hopefully, a decision will be made early next year, but I am not holding my breath!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Hull City Council

The news Hull City Council will not increase residents’ council tax bills next year is very welcome. The Taxpayers’ Alliance has been supportive of the economies the council has made and will encourage it to continue to do the same. The council has proved it is possible to give council taxpayers a good deal by both giving a real terms decrease and increase spending on essential council services. The pressure has now been raised on other local authorities in our region to do the same. 

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

The Big Screen in Hull

Readers who live in the Hull and East Riding area will no doubt be aware of Hull City Council’s decision to ‘pull the plug’ on the Big Screen in the city’s Queen Victoria Square. The news broke last Thursday and the first I heard about it was a call from the Hull Daily Mail. I was then asked if I would do an interview on BBC Radio Humberside last Friday.

The power was switched off today and the story is still rumbling as the former Labour leader of the council, Colin Inglis, entered the fray to defend his decision five years ago to buy the screen at a cost of £650,000. I think some clarification is required.

Cllr Inglis wrote the following on the Hull Daily Mail website earlier today:

For the record, we wanted a screen for the 2004 Olympics when the BBC offered us a deal, which given their then recent multi-million pound investment in Hull (not popular at the HDM, I know) and our desire to keep them sweet, it was hard to refuse. We had a limited window of opportunity to say yes hence the decision route used in the Council's Recess period. The project was meant to be part of a wider refurbishment of Victoria Square, untouched for twenty years, not removing Queen Victoria, or her toilets, which later administrations never finished, as seems so often to be the case in Hull. The money for it had been raised as part of the KC share sale, ie not Council Tax or government grant, it was capital, not revenue funding so could only be spent on building or refurbishing something or buying some large item and had already been earmarked for work in the city centre.

Firstly, I would like to remind Cllr Inglis money raised from the sale of shares of Kingston Communications is still public money and it still needs to be spent wisely. All too often our elected representatives act like children in a candy store with money like this. What he should have done is explore other possibilities. There is an alternative to buying, such as leasing. The location of the screen should have been given great thought. It could have been part of a wider plan of redevelopment. Rushing into a decision, without consulting other councillors, was wrong. A business plan should have been drawn up and advertisers and sponsors found. This is what any responsible leader would have done. Unfortunately, this was not done and the screen has been a controversial addition to the city since its installation.

With thought and planning this project could have been a success. The screen could have been an asset and revenue could have been generated for the council. As it stands, I fully support Hull City Council’s decision to remove the screen and look for a buyer. It would cost £250,000 to keep the screen going for another three years. It would cost £100,000 to remove and screen and place it in a different location. The taxpayers of Hull quite rightly want their money spent wisely and want lower council tax bills and better council services. Spending huge sums of money on a giant television set that hardly anyone looks at and the majority have never wanted, can not be justified. I am not opposed to Hull having a big screen, however, it has to be properly thought through, unlike the decision made behind closed doors in 2004.