Ealing and Northfield Public sector waste

Ealing announces tax rise

Yesterday Ealing council announced its council tax rise for this year. Their press release says it will be 4.7% although you have to read almost down the the bottom to get this information. They seem to be pleased that they have held their rise down to 2.49% only they don’t let on that they are massively increasing borrowing by £177 million over two years. Oooops.

They use the same trick as Ken and talk about their rise being only 48p per week. Makes it sound almost painless until your bill arrives and you realise that it has doubled since Labour came to power. The combination of a Labour Government, Mayor and Council is pretty hard work.

See Ealing Times story.

Ealing and Northfield Public sector waste

Council tax rises on the front page

Both the Telegraph and the Times have been highlighting more large council tax increases due to be announced over the next few weeks across the country. In Ealing we are looking at 4.4-4.9%. As the Telegraph says this will be the 10th successive year of above inflation rises.

The Conservative MP Eric Pickles has been sounding off, quite rightly, about the divergence in English and Scottish increases: 84% in England since Labour came to power as opposed to 40% in Scotland. Pensions have only increased by about 35% in the same period so English pensioners have been roasted by a combination of Government pushing inadequately funded responsibilities onto councils whilst councils themselves have kept up spending on their pet projects and let bills creep up.

In London the ludicrous Labour Mayor has ramped up his charge by 175% in seven years.

In Ealing the Labour council can only get its rise down below the capping level by borrowing £1,600 per household over two years.

Follow links:

Front page lead, Telegraph 20th February
Leader, Telegraph 20th February
Times 20th February
Telegraph 21st February
Simon Heffer, Telegraph 21st February
Conservative Home

Ealing and Northfield Public sector waste

Nice little earner

Maybe Martin Beecroft, one of our £18,000 a year Labour Councillors, was misquoted on the front page of the Ealing & Acton Gazette this morning. Talking about how much debt interest would cost us next year he was quoted as saying: “5.8% of the money the council earns would go to paying just the interest on the debt, which will be around £24m in a single year”. I would just like to point out to Beecroft that the Council don’t earn nothing. Every year they do their sums and work out how much they are going to take off us. It isn’t earning, its taxing! Beecroft, responsible for finance, rated only adequate by the Audit Commission, is trying to kid us that he is doing a good job when the council tax is about to rise at twice the rate of inflation and the Council’s debt is about to go up £87 million in just one year.

Ealing and Northfield

Ealing debt gets out of hand

On Monday Ealing Conservatives issued a press release pointing up the massive debt that the Council is taking on to allow them to keep the Council Tax down without having to make any hard decisions about spending. The council’s long term debt was £339 million last year, it is projected to be £429 million this year and £516 million next. Next year the Council will spend £24 million, the equivalent of 20% of its Council Tax income, just to service the debt. The increase over two years is £1,600 per household. By borrowing this money in our name they are piling up problems for the future.

See Ealing Times story.

Ealing and Northfield

Thomson tells only half the story

Labour Council Leader, Leonora Thomson, proposes to spend £457,000 next year on Around Ealing telling us how great the Council is. Since it went monthly in January, by happy coincidence the run up to local elections in May, the two last issues have carried prominent articles penned by Thomson lauding the Council’s achievements in getting a 3 star rating from the Audit Commission.

The Audit Commission is the Government’s standards setting body and it is this Labour council’s fixation with pleasing central government and the Audit Commission rather than pleasing its residents that led to last year’s expensive fiasco in the courts that cost us £350,000. The Council would do well to stop telling us about the Audit Commission’s CPA and to focus on service delivery. But as Thomson raises the issue let us look at it in more detail.

The Council’s press release on the subject does not link to the actual scorecard produced by the Audit Commission. The reason for this is that their assessment is a lot more mixed than the Council would like us to be aware of. Some of the quotes that did not make it into the Council’s press release were: “some performance indicators do not compare well with other councils nationally” and “the Council needs to develop a more overarching value for money culture”.

It is worth pointing out that 68% of councils achieved 3 or 4 stars so this is very much a prizes for all system. You have to be really quite crap to be marked down by this new system.

The scorecard comprises 10 different measures that are essentially on a four point scale from Excellent, Good, Adequate to Poor.

  • Overall Performance – Good (but then so are 68% of councils)
  • Direction of Travel – Adequate (over 70% of councils are doing better than this)
  • Benefits – Good
  • Children and Young People – Good
  • Culture – Good
  • Environment – Adequate (not Queen of the Suburbs then)
  • Housing – Adequate
  • Adult Social Care – Adequate
  • Use of Resources – Adequate (this is all about financial management controls, value for money, etc)
  • Council Ability – Good

    The main point here is that whilst Ealing is only improving adequately over 70% of councils assessed had a “Direction of Travel” that was improving strongly or improving well. More importantly maybe for Ealing residents three main front line service functions: environment, housing and adult social care, and the Council’s overall ability to manage its finances are merely adequate. In none of the 10 areas is the council excellent.

    So although Thomson is wasting our time and money telling us how great the Council is she is in fact presiding over mediocrity, as warranted by the Audit Commission.

  • Categories
    Ealing and Northfield Policing

    Ealing Police show their usual flair for customer service

    I naively thought that I might hand deliver a letter to Borough Commander, Collette Paul, this afternoon. I am keen to chase her up and find out what is happening to these Safer Neighbourhood teams that are being widely advertised but don’t seem to be here yet. There was another full page in last week’s Gazette.

    How silly of me! There is no letterbox at the Police station. No opportunity to communicate with the Police there. Clearly they think that broadcasting ads is all they need to do to keep us sweet. I thought about waiting to hand the letter in to the desk officer. There was already a queue of six in front of me at 13:45pm today. I did not fancy waiting for an hour or so in the very unpleasant waiting area before being allowed behind the security doors. I went off to the Post Office and put a stamp on the envelope – much quicker. Clearly Commander Paul would rather keep her parking place in front of the station rather then using the space for a reception suite that allows more than one desk officer at a time to deal with the public.

    Ealing and Northfield

    Ealing Broadway featured by Standard

    The Evening Standard is keeping up its campaigning on rail station safety. It talks about a 38% rise in violent assaults at stations over the last five years. Ealing Broadway is listed in the Worst 20 mainline stations. Luckily it is only 18th with 60 violent crimes last year. Still that is 60 of our neighbours with their heads kicked in.

    Ealing and Northfield

    Dirty Ealing

    This morning the Gazette covered the full council meeting on Tuesday and its discussion of how dirty Ealing is. Most of the discussion was driven by Audit Commission figures and in particular Best Value Performance Indicators (or BVPIs in the jargon – central government targets to you and me).

    In 2003/4 Ealing was the dirtiest borough in London. In spite of being the 9th highest spender at £27.41 per head it had the worst BVPI 199 (Relevant land with significant/heavy littering) score. This figure is easy to pull out from the performance indicators link on the Audit Commission’s home page.

    More recent data for 2004/5 is harder to find, see spreadsheet published on 16th January. This shows that Ealing was 4/5th equal worst on BVPI 199 last year. You might call this improvement but you would not call it Queen of the Suburbs.

    See also Ealing Times story.

    Ealing and Northfield Policing

    Progress on Met Safer Neighbourhoods?

    I notice this evening that the Ealing page of the Safer Neighbourhoods portion of the Met website has bee updated. Instead of showing that there are only 8 teams in place there is now a list of the 23 wards in Ealing. Unfortunately 15 out of 23 wards are “Team not yet in place”. I guess you might call this progress. At least they are showing intent. Only 10 weeks to go before they have to be in place to meet Ken’s commitment.

    Ealing and Northfield Public sector waste

    Simon Hughes on Question Time

    In a discussion of wealth redistribution Simon Hughes on Question Time tonight passionately told us how people in his constituency work on the minimum wage for companies that give people £100,000 bonuses and £1 million pay offs. Sounds like Ealing Council to me.