Thursday, 31 March 2011

'Residents Protected From Tax Increase'- The Con is ON

Residents of Bedfordshire will most likely have received their Council Tax document explaining how your taxes are worked out and how your money is spent with the headline; 'Residents protected from council tax increase'. You must feel better and safer already?

The percentage break down is given to you, 81% for Central Bedfordshire Council, 9% Police, 5% each for Town and Parish Average and Fire Service.  The booklet provided heavily repeats the party line on the 'need' for cuts and austerity measures, as has been well documented the past few months, recently culminating in a mass demonstration and march, on March 26th 2011, where upwards of 500,000 people descended upon London to say "enough is enough", as the divide between those that 'haves' and those that are 'have nots' widens ever more.

The cuts the government say are being balanced between 'those services they have to provide by law' versus 'those they do not'. These services being seen as discretionary. The booklet goes on to explain: 'Our relationship with schools will change as the national agenda will see them becoming increasingly independent from councils',  sounds like another way of privatising to me. but we shall wait and see. If the governments insistence on throwing money at faith schools is anything to go by then it seems like a good bet.

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service and Bedfordshire Police Authority both feature in the booklet, championing the fact that by 'working together we have cut costs by 45%' in producing said booklet.  A closer look at this statement will show it up for what it is, a nonsense.
Recently Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service built a brand new fire station in Dunstable at the cost of .£4m.  Looks, it is said, can be deceiving and so is the case here. The smoke house used for important, safety critical, search and rescue training, has not been fit for purpose since the day it opened and has recently been budgeted for again, somewhere in the region of £8000.  A fine saving in tax payers money.  Not to mention the drill yard, where basic daily training takes place, has too been not fit for purpose, on and off, since being opened by Princess Anne in January 2009.  I will not mention the drill yard at Luton Fire Station as it has lost count how many times this has been laid and relaid by the incompetent firms that seem to end up with building contracts.

Upon reflection that 45% seems like good value...

An Empty Control Room
Both the Fire Service and the Police Authority repeat the fact that despite the upcoming and on going cuts they will 'continue to provide the high quality of service' that you the people currently receive. At this point I would like to inform you of the 40 Firefighter 'posts', not people, being made redundant by the Fire and Rescue Service (by removing the human element and calling it posts draws less attention and potential kick back) and the 60 Police Officers or so, plus police staff that will also be lost behind their cuts.  This does not even include the Regional Fire Control fiasco which has cost the taxpayer, you and ourseleves, hundreds of millions of pounds, for a project that never even got off the ground and is still costing us in monthly rent whilst these buildings stand empty.  Not to mention the upheaval and distress caused on control centre staff and their families up and down the country on the uncertainty of their futures.

The average Band D cost of Policing in your County costs you 40p per day with 23p per day for the Fire Service.  This is subject to change however as Councillor Sian Timoney, Chair of the Bedfordshire and Luton Fire Authority, says in her 'looking ahead' segment: "in maintaining the high quality of our services and ensuring that our dedicated staff can remain safe, well trained, and well-equipped" that YOU the people can help them plan ahead by filling in an attached free-post questionnaire called 'Budgetary Participation', letting the Fire Authority know if you would be "willing to pay a few pence more in future years" to protect your Fire and Rescue Service.  Do not be fooled for one minute that this 'voluntary' extra payment will benefit the Firefighters, you and or your families one bit. If you have already filled one in and sent it back then why not get in contact with your local councillor or fire station to see what the cuts, review of stations, crewing etc could REALLY mean for your safety.  If you haven't then we would also advocate you doing some research on what signing up for a 'few extra pennies' really means in correlation to the up coming cuts facing your local emergency services.

Questionnaires can and will be loaded in a particular way to gather the information the recipient requires. Statistics can be used to prove anything. Have an informed say.

Civil Enforcement Officer in the 'Act'
The only way for these people to make cuts and to 'maintain' the service they currently provide is to cut corners. For example the the looming move towards 'co-responding' where firefighters will be used to paper over the cracks in an ailing ambulance service.  It is like going to the doctors for an operation only for it to be done by a butcher.  How about the Government granting extra powers to Traffic Wardens who are now called 'Civil Enforcement Officers' to deal with certain levels of offences, or private security firms that are being granted extra powers in a move to 'relinquish the police from petty theft' crimes as demonstrated recently at Victoria Station in London.  Follow the attached link for the full story.

Another private security firm operating out of Essex, Brentwood, is charging residents £1 a week to 'patrol the streets'.  In another region a private call centre firm has been lined up to process your emergency calls rather than through a police could not make it up.

More actors in costumes is exactly what we need.

So for Bedfordshire we will see 60 less Police 'Officers', 40 less Firefighter 'posts', which equates to the loss of an entire watch or shift from each fire station, and a service that is maintained with fewer resources and increased work loads potentially. You can expect this all for a few extra pence as the cuts get deeper in the coming years.

Indeed, we are all in it together. In a right mess.

Quotes taken from 'Council Tax News', BBC News and ''

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