Tuesday 22 January 2008

Highly charged debate

There is a lot of hot air being expelled about how councils are raising money through charging for things like parking and other services. The headlines are all about the statistic that "One in four town halls now get more income from charges" rather than the overall figure that such charges raise half as much as council tax (£11 billion a year as opposed to £22 billion). The generally moderate news sources are mostly reporting on how the charging varies wildly across the country and the Audit Commission's recommendation for transparency in the methodologies by which the charges are calculated. Of course the radically right wing rags are shouting about them being stealth taxes, they are of course the exact opposite, as if someone could be fooled into not noticing the money they put in the parking meter or that the price of a child swim has gone up 50p and how variable charging for services based on income and assets is a heinous, iniquitous punishment for having acquired money.
Of course Council Tax only pays for a tiny amount of council services and all this money has to come from somewhere doesn't it, whether it is charges, indirect or direct taxation. Time for a proper look at local taxation and how much central government has control over spending priorities, I think; as it seems no one is happy with the status quo.

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