The so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) and its dubiously talented array of non-job holders has not been enjoying such a high profile of late – as well as not faring too well in encounters with those of opposing view, as Jonathan Isaby discovered when he came off second best to Sue Marsh recently. But this amply funded convocation of Government bashing is never down for long.
More guff from Tufton Street
Yes, today the TPA has brought us “From shared services to grazing sheep – the 201 ways councils could cut Council Tax”. Perhaps they ought to show it to all those rich donors, so they can take the hint and get the TPA to maybe merge with the IEA, CPS, ASI and Policy Exchange to form one gigantic Astroturf dustbin. But this is another case of “Do as we say, not as we do”.
The guide has been helpfully authored for the TPA by Harry Phibbs (he does? Well, there’s a surprise – not), a councillor at the Tory madrasa of Hammersmith and Fulham, those nice people who want to demolish the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates, along with Earl’s Court, in order to facilitate the enrichment of their pals at property developer CapCo.
So what does Phibbs suggest other councils do in order to become ideologically purer and more efficient? Well, there’s suggestion #70, for instance: “Where appropriate, use cattle and sheep to graze on council land rather than spending money on grass cutting”. What an interesting wheeze! If only there was an example that we could use to test its soundness ... oh hang on, there is.
Yes, the idea has already been tried by Brighton and Hove Council: “The council has been using grazing animals as a more environmentally friendly way of keeping downland trimmed back since 2004” reports The Argus. So what effect has this had? “Campaigners have raised concerns about the need to enclose the sheep which is closing off historic open spaces with fences and gates”. An immediate downside.
But what about the cost? How does the whizzo Phibbs wheeze stack up? Sadly, not very well for the TPA and its cheerleaders: the cost of grass cutting for those downlands around Brighton was estimated at £30,000 a year, but the total cost of having sheep graze there instead, for 2011 and 2012, came to almost £140,000, or more than twice the cost of retaining the status quo.
Despite this, the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog have obediently called the TPA’s wheeze “Clearly a ‘vealy’ (ho ho ho) good way to provide the taxpayer with value”. That would be another case of not being arsed to do any research: the experience from Brighton and Hove is that not only are there downsides to the public, but the costs are significantly higher.
So he was right: Harry really Phibbs after all. No surprise there, then.