Local Government has to make cuts year-on-year, thanks to the less than benevolent attitude of our not really very caring Tory administration in Westminster. And so many pundits claim to know the solution to those financial constraints. So, to show that it’s not as easy as pontificating down the pub, Newcastle City Council has provided an online budget simulator to let their Council Tax payers have a go.
This cost them no more than £5,000, which is small beer when the scale of cuts that will have to be made this year is in the region of £20 million. That makes the budget simulator’s cost just 0.025% of the cuts. But this is not enough for the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance, for whom any spending by local Government is streng verboten.
The TPA would stop those working for such organisations from even having paid toilet breaks if they were in charge, in addition to their advocacy of abolishing the minimum wage and the NHS, before taking a hatchet to health and safety regulation and such tedious things as food standards, public transport and decent air quality.
Chloe Westley - still not telling who pays her salary
So it was that Chloe Westley, the TPA’s alleged “campaign manager”, decided to shoot her mouth off about the Newcastle budget simulator. As Chronicle Live has reported, “The council insists the tool is ‘great value for money’ - but a public spending pressure group criticised the spend … ‘It's not every day that you see a local council waste thousands of pounds on a project which is dedicated to expressing just how tight their budget is,’ said Chloe Westley, campaign manager at the TaxPayers' Alliance”. Bah humbug!
The TPA wants local Government to be accountable, but wants them to do it for nothing. Also, Chronicle Live got one thing wrong: the TPA is not a “public spending pressure group”. It is an Astroturf lobby group pursuing a “small state” agenda. It is ideologically committed to demonising Government - any and all Government - as part of the service it provides to its rich, greedy and cowardly backers.
Newcastle City Council could make their budget simulator available to other local authorities, thus recouping most of the cost - and the mean-spirited mouth artists of the TPA would still slag them off, especially if it meant More And Bigger Publicity Opportunities For Themselves Personally Now. They don’t want to save taxpayers money.
Indeed, John O’Shea, who is a Councillor for Acocks Green ward in Birmingham, has concluded “£5k? It is a handy little gadget that explains the complexity and range of Council work and the impact of costs. That’s a bargain. @BrumLeader should adopt it for @BhamCityCouncil”. Cost shared, money recouped, TPA absent.
If the TPA really was about both saving taxpayers money and making local Government accountable, they would have made that suggestion themselves. But they are not. Small wonder Labour MP Chi Onwurah, who represents Newcastle Central, has observed “I call that accountability, unlike the #TaxpayersAlliance who refuse to say how many members they have or who funds them”. Well, I can help with one of those points.
The TPA represents fewer than one-tenth of one per cent of UK taxpayers. It is high time that media outlets treated these frauds with the contempt they truly deserve.
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