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Fighting for lower tax in South Tyneside

Potts Cllr David Potts, leader of the Conservative opposition on South Tyneside, on how the Labour Council responded to his proposals to freeze Council Tax.

Labour led South Tyneside Council set its budget yesterday and I had been thinking for some time about the Conservative notice of amendment. Just how can we freeze council tax without damaging public services? Then I stumbled across Cllr Harry Phibbs ‘100 ways to cut council tax’.

So, after having had a few meetings with the Head of Finance, I came up with the following ideas to present to my Conservative colleagues who agreed that the proposals were sound. Bear in mind that to freeze
rates we needed to save just over £1.5M. I confess to having nicked a few of Harry’s ideas:

  • Everyday a little yellow van turns up at the homes of every councillor and senior executive to deliver council papers and the mail. This costs £64’000 PA. Scrap it, send the data by email and tell councillors to pick up their own mail from the town hall. If they aren’t in the town hall at least one day a week, then they shouldn’t be on the council.
  • Cease to employ staff to be trade union representatives (thanks, Harry!). Saving £120’000 PA. Labour really loved that one!
  • Abolish ‘ON VIEW’, Labour’s propaganda tool (sorry, I mean the totally impartial council magazine). This would save £80’000.
  • Now the big one! South Tyneside Council is the smallest Metropolitan Borough in the Country, yet we still manage to squander a whopping £2.3M PA on printing and photocopying. Slash the budget to £1.0M PA, keep tight control over departmental budgets and tell staff to only print off in exceptional circumstances. Also stop sending junk mail to residents. They don’t read any of it, and they don’t want it. The only thing that should be printed and posted is their (now greatly reduced) council tax bill.

Labour’s response to this was as ridiculous as it was short sighted. Our councillors like the little yellow van as it allows them to get their mail without having to hike all of the way to the town hall, bless their little cotton socks.

The trade unions are essential to the Authority (I assume because they fund half of the local party).

With regard to ‘ON VIEW’, “it is an essential tool for the council to spread the message”. The fact that the latest edition featured 12 photographs of Labour councillors, a full page dedicated to the secretary of the Jarrow Labour Party and not a single story about any opposition councillor or ward must have escaped them.

As for the printing, we need to keep chopping trees down to print massive documents that nobody reads, as some members aren’t IT savvy. Despite the fact they all have BlackBerrys and laptops. Email just
won’t do!

What a shocking waste of taxpayers’ money. Labour has such an arrogant sense of entitlement and disrespect for the electorate here. It really is shocking, but I think the canny folk of the South Tyneside
recognise that and are ready for a change. Roll on May 2010!


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