Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Paying for the tip

BBC Breakfast this morning reported from Crewkerne, where the council is now charging people to use the tip. A corresponding article on BBC News explains

The centres were due to close to save £300,000 a year as part of savings by Conservative-run Somerset County Council.

By changing their legal status they could be kept open as community facilities with people paying to use them.

The town council spokeswoman added that it would underwrite the trial up to a maximum of £10,000 in case there was a shortfall in cash.

"This was agreed at an EGM of the town council on Friday morning. Officers are looking into whether this charge would be subject to VAT in which case it would be £1.20 per visit.

Now, as a libertarian you might expect me to be pleased about this. Unfortunately, waste disposal is one of those very few things that it makes some sense for the government to provide free at the point of use. You need only think of the alternative: fly-tipping, which is obviously grim, and very difficult to prevent.

It's also galling that the County Council would cut this useful service while continuing to provide thousands of non-jobs, and many services that nobody would miss.

According to their 2009/10 accounts, they spent £904 million, 45% of which went on salaries. Their profile on Monster says
With more than 17,000 employees across the region Somerset County Council is Somerset's biggest employer. We offer a huge range of jobs and career development opportunities.
We offer all employees a wide range of benefits, some of which are listed below.
  • Training
  • Flexible working
  • Family friendly policies (such as maternity and paternity leave)
  • Child care vouchers
  • Final salary pension scheme
The accounts also show a pensions deficit of £562 million (Note 4, Table 1) and unfunded pension payments of £1.490 million in 2009/10 (Note 4, Table 9). Staff costs look like their main problem, but Note 4 Table 3 shows they plan to increase salaries at 1.5% above inflation.

Meanwhile, Note 1 shows that the council spent £2.350 million on "Culture and heritage", £2.530 million on "Democratic representation and management", and £2.247 million on "Corporate management". Your guess is as good as mine.

This looks like a classic case of a council targeting a highly-visible, highly-valued service for the axe, so they can play the victim of Coalition Cuts, and justify extracting fees from their already-overtaxed residents, while maintaining cushy jobs-for-life for thousands of useless bureaucrats.

The BBC, as ever, is happy to play along.

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