Category Archives: Finance

Reaction to Budget 2014

Here is the letter I wrote to the Surrey Advertiser to give Labour’s response to George Osborne’s budget:

2014-03-29 18.28.27 (2)

Dear Editor,

The Chancellor, George Osborne, did nothing to address falling living standards in Guildford in his budget last week. Average families have been worse off year-on-year since the Conservative-LibDem Government came to power in 2010 and are now £1,600 per year worse off.

The economic recovery has finally arrived, after three wasted years, but it is a recovery for the few, not the many. Wages are not keeping up with household costs like gas bills and child care. Young people are struggling to find quality jobs.

Osborne could have frozen gas and electricity bills. He could have announced a Youth Jobs Guarantee where all young people out of work for a year would be given a compulsory, real, paying job. He could have provided 25 hours of free child care per week for all 3 and 4-year olds with working parents. He didn’t do any of those things because the cost of living crisis is not his priority.

Labour understands that for most people the recovery is not being felt at all. We would get young people into jobs, ease the pressure on families and cut rates for small businesses. This would be paid for by reversing the millionaires’ tax cut, taxing bankers’ bonuses and restricting tax relief on pension contributions for those earning over £150,000 per year.

In Guildford, we need an economy which works for working people. In his budget, George Osborne missed another opportunity to help ordinary families. The Conservative-LibDem Coalition will not tackle the cost of living crisis because they always stand up for the wrong people: bankers, millionaires and the big energy companies. If elected next year, I will be an MP for Guildford who stands up for the many, not the few.

Best regards,

Richard Wilson

Labour Party Parliamentary Candidate for Guildford

9B Martyr Road

Guildford GU1 4LF

Downgraded Chancellor Offers No Hope For The Future

Today, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, delivered his Autumn Statement and did nothing to address the cost of living crisis for working people. He crowed about the very recent figures showing that the 3-year period of flatlining has finally ended. He forgot to mention that in 2010 he promised to remove the deficit by next year and keep the country’s credit rating. In reality, the deficit is stuck and our credit rating has been downgraded twice.

As the BBC’s Robert Peston pointed out nearly all of the recovery is due to people saving less and borrowing more. This is storing up horrendous problems for the future but Osborne doesn’t care about that. He is a short-term, calculating politician.

He showed this by offering financial incentives for fracking companies. Here in Surrey, this would trash our countryside and only produce more carbon emissions to trash our climate too. Once the shale gas has been extracted and burnt, it is gone, forever. What does Osborne propose we do for energy then?

The main thrust behind the Conservative and LibDem economic policy is austerity. 80% of the deficit reduction planned for the years ahead is due to cuts. Social security will be cut even further. The Coalition is targeting the most vulnerable in society.

Their plan would make the British state the smallest it has been since 1948. I believe this is not what the British people want. We want a properly funded NHS and social care system. We want a high quality state education system and we want a social security system to look after us in hard times. This is where Cameron and Osborne and their ideologically right wing supporters are most out of touch with the British people.

Windlesham Parish Council and the Magic Money Tree

Last week, like all Council Tax payers, I received my Council Tax Notice for 2013-2014.

My Council Tax Bill

As you can see, the total Council Tax is the sum of four different elements.

I already knew that Surrey County Council would be increasing my bill by 1.99% because they need the money to spend on vanity projects and stays in posh hotels for councillors.

Likewise, I knew that Surrey’s new Police and Crime Commissioner would need more money because “zero tolerance” costs a lot more than “tolerance”.

And, of course, I knew that Surrey Heath Borough Council would be putting their bit of the Council Tax up too.

These three Council taxers are all limited by the percentage that they can increase our bills. If they increase bills by over 2% they need to hold (and fund) a referendum to get our agreement. Realistically, this isn’t going to be forthcoming so they are effectively capped at 2%.

The fourth element of my Council Tax bill is the smallest but has risen by the most, by a long way. This did surprise me.

I have been trying to find out about how Windlesham Parish Council spends its money and it hasn’t been easy. Consolidated budgets were impossible to find. I attended a Council meeting and saw that some spending decisions were on the agenda. However, when we reached them they decided to move them to part 2 of the meeting where the “press and public” are excluded. I was thrown out of the meeting for this discussion.

I have often found that the more interest I show in the workings of local government, particularly regarding taxpayers’ money, the more those in power try to cover it up.

In Windlesham Parish Council minutes, a meeting was scheduled to decide the Council Tax precept for the coming year. I phoned the then clerk to find out the venue because I was going to come and listen. I was refused entry. Councils are supposed to hold meetings in public but WPC don’t do this.

Now, why did Windlesham Parish Council increase my bill by so much, 5.7%?

Parish Precepts

Parish Precepts

As you can see from the table above the total amount that WPC will receive from all of us has gone up from £265K to £273K. This is only 2.95%. However, the ‘tax base’, the effective number of houses in the parish, has fallen from 8143 to 7934. This means that to get 2.95% more money, fewer taxpayers have to pay 5.7% more.

There has been a big fall in the ‘tax base’ this year because of the Localisation of Council Tax Benefit and the fact that it was cut by 10% when it was transferred to councils from central government. Regular readers will remember Surrey Heath Borough Council imposed the harshest benefit cuts in the country, when they were asked to decide on this. You can see the reduction here:

Council Tax base SH

Since I can’t get into supposedly public meetings, I’ve been reading the published minutes of Windlesham Parish Council to see if I can work out what was in their minds. I read this in the minutes of 4 Jan 2013:

WPC 4 Jan

This helps a little, but it doesn’t reveal whether councillors knew that our bills would actually rise by 5.7% due to the reduction in tax base. Then I found this:

WPC 1 Feb

This is from minutes of 1 Feb and is actually quite serious. It shows that Windlesham Parish Council thought that SHBC would go to its magic money tree and make it all better. Ignore the unfortunate pound signs in the this minute (bizarre that nobody else spotted them, makes you wonder). It is worrying that they didn’t realise that the tax base had dropped and its effect on individual bills. Looking at the other parishes, it seems West End and Chobham both realised.

From what I can gather, Windlesham Parish Council did not intend to increase my bill by 5.7%, it was due to either incompetence or miscommunication with SHBC. I have an unrelated Freedom of Information request in with SHBC to see some communications with WPC. It is several months overdue. My suspicions are being raised that there is something to hide in the finances of Windlesham Parish Council and I call on them to be transparent with the taxpayers and tell us what they are doing with our money.

More of the Same From a Downgraded Chancellor

Chancellor Gideon “George” Osborne has just delivered his fourth budget to the House of Commons and induced deja vu in everyone watching.

Public Sector Pay Cap

Osborne extended the 1% pay rise cap for public sector workers so their incomes will not keep up with inflation. He threatened that pay progression will be halted too. He also accepted that inflation will be above the 2% target and allowed the Bank of England to fudge its task of reducing it.

Growth? What Growth?

Like in his previous budgets, Osborne reported that growth estimates for this and all future years will be much lower than expected. This is because his austerity plan is not working. Well, it’s not working for the 99%, the very wealthiest are doing better than ever, of course.

Tomorrow Never Comes

In 2010, Osborne promised that it would take 4 years to eliminate the deficit. Three years later and he now admits it will take another 4 years. The deficit actually rose over the last year. Osborne cut too far, too fast and cut off the recovery that was established under Labour. He did this for ideological reasons because he does not believe that the state should help the less fortunate in society. He believes in destroying the public sector, the NHS, schools, local authorities. His policies have reduced confidence and plunged many families into financial crisis.

Good News For Speculators

Osborne scrapped Stamp Duty on AIM listed shares. These are riskier investments than those on the main exchange. Removing Stamp Duty is a gift to wealthy investors and market speculators. There will be less incentive to hold onto these shares for the long term. With no transaction costs, gamblers will jump in and out of these shares and destabilise the small companies. And it reduces income to the Treasury, of course.

For people on incomes over £60,000 pa, the government will now help you speculate on property by subsidising your new mortgage. This will help pump up the house price bubble and ensure buying a house remains unaffordable for many ordinary people. It is a big mistake for the government to subsidise people’s mortgages, as the sub-prime crisis showed in 2008. Barratt shares have just risen by 9%.

Trickle-Down Economics

Osborne cut corporation tax from 21% to 20%, even though previous cuts have not encouraged more businesses to move here. He is relying on trickle-down economics where giving money to the wealthiest people leads to them buying goods and services which gives the rest of us jobs. Ronald Reagan tried this. It failed. The rich just kept the money.

In two weeks, people earning over £150,000 per year will get a 5% tax cut. At the same time, the poorest people in society will be hit by cuts to Council Tax Benefit and the Bedroom Tax.

Downgraded Chancellor

Osborne’s austerity has been self-defeating. Britain has lost its AAA rating which David Cameron said was the mark of trust, until he lost it.

The Chancellor’s fourth budget was like his previous ones: regressive and doomed to fail.

Surrey Heath Council Tax Going Up

At the Full Council meeting of Surrey Heath Borough Council tonight, they voted to increase your Council Tax by 1.9%. The BBC reported tonight that 4 in 10 councils are raising Council Tax this year. Ours is one of them.

Surrey County Council have already decided to raise their share by 1.99% and the new Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner is raising his share by 1.99% too.

Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, urged councils to freeze Council Tax and has branded councils which raise it by just under 2% as “democracy dodgers”. If Council Tax is raised by over 2%, the council has to hold a referendum to approve it. This would be costly and almost certainly fail to approve any rise.

Surrey Heath Borough Council is within the constituency of Michael Gove, Tory leadership hopeful. Even in his constituency, loyal Tories are saying, “enough is enough!”. Budgets have been cut too far and now we are paying the price.

SHBC still waste money on buying lavish meals for wealthy businessmen and propaganda magazines. They have voted for the most extreme cuts to Council Tax benefits in the country which will cost the council due to non-payments. Basically, they have messed up their finances and now Council Tax payers have to stump up.

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