Monday, 18 January 2016

Spending other people's money!

All local government, regardless of which party is in control, is living through difficult times. Reductions in central grant, tax increases capped at 1.99%, increased demand on services and the constant demand to do "more for less" all take their toll.

I was disappointed to hear from a friend that at the recent annual finance meeting of a local council, with councillors going through expenditure on a line by line basis, few objections were raised to any of the proposed increases in charges, but my colleague's suggestion to show solidarity with hard-pressed taxpayers by proposing the abolition of the council's £7,000 per annum "civic hospitality" budget caused uproar. One councillor even suggested that he had no right to such an opinion as he hadn't been on the council long enough to hold such an impertinent view. In fact, such was the anger and opprobrium pouring down on my colleagues (from his so-called political friends) that four other councillors (a quarter of those present) emailed him afterwards to apologise for their colleagues' behaviour and rudeness. 

In these circumstances I compare the actions of the council with our own prudence at West Kent Conservatives. Both organisations take money from others and spend it on their behalf (though in the case of West Kent people have a choice, in paying their local Council Tax they don't). Jon and I always buy the tea and coffee personally and we even paid our own way at the Office Volunteers' Christmas Lunch. If we host a reception here (for candidates or helpers) we raise sponsorship for the food and drink.  Neither of us claim travel expenses and whenever we attend branch or Association events we always pay full price for our ticket and pay our way when we get there with the raffle. 

I accept in the grand scheme of things £7,000 is not a lot of money, but when councillors vote to increase car parking charges, reduce services and freeze staff wages,spending the combined Council Tax of 44 families on prawn vol au vents and White Burgundy is not setting a very good example.    

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