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Government failure (continued)

posted 29 Dec 2012, 03:08 by Peter Webb   [ updated 29 Dec 2012, 03:09 ]

Here is an update on my agenda:


On 18th December came the Auditor General’s response to my further questions of 19th November. Once again he accords me full attention. I have yet to digest what he says before I sum up. 


On 19th December came Jeremy Hunt’s Christmas wishes accompanied by the ‘present’  of the attached  Eric Pickles’ letter, and this link: I have said this to Jeremy with my Christmas wishes: “Thank you for what turns out to be a complete refusal to deal properly with my letter  of 22nd November. I had hoped that I had got beyond the business rate retention scheme.   I am disbelieving having read the opening words in the link provided which says: “Giving local authorities more control over how they spend public money in their area”. Some incentive there may be but how can there be more control than at present with less real money overall ? And  until central government actually loosens the reins.  My concern remains  with the whole local funding pantomime, local tax included, which is a musical hall joke because incomprehensible to most people.  You might be able to tell me what is Eric Pickles’ attitude towards Lord Heseltine and his recent recommendations…..” to George Osborne. 


Following on from that I  have failed to get a proper hearing on the TPA/IOD 2020 Commission Report Chapter 8 on local taxation proposals. I should perhaps keep silent but consider them seriously mistaken and missing wider skilled input.  I did receive Matthew Elliot’s counter to my critique but have not changed my expressed view against promotion of an anti-taxpayer policy/method  which even if politically correct  -

·         is managerially and operationally unsound,

·         does nothing for taxpayer information and accountability,

·         is for the benefit only of  local politicians,

·         is not applied anywhere else eg local hospitals in the NHS,

·         needs little imagination to see that it inflates operating cost by adding  to the complexity and contradictions of the current system

·         proposes a local  income tax on mythical standard local  people as diverse local service consumers when it is not credible that it would replace only pound for pound part of the national income tax ? And why a new sales tax when we have one called VAT and with all the contradictions such as non-locality of internet sales ?

·         relies considerably on questionable conclusions for UK from international academically derived statistics purporting to justify artificially induced competition between authorities when co-operation is also important  -   and decentralisation, when that is organisationally essential and needs government action  accordingly  but not a “local” tax.

·         It does not chime with the simplification aims of the rest of the Report.  

I shall probably be drummed out of the TPA but  note the similarities of my freely offered alternative with Lord Heseltine’s entrepreneurially experienced thinking.  This is only important in the unlikely event of the government taking any ‘big bang’ reform action. Eric Pickles’ mandarins clearly have no such intention.


As reported in the Press on 12th December Lord Heseltine has  in front of a Commons Committee fiercely attacked an amateur and dysfunctional Whitehall. This stung the mandarin knights Bob Kerslake and Jeremy Heywood to defend the senior civil service in a letter published on 15th. But lord H is further supported in readers’ letters. George Osborne has yet to reply via Jeremy Hunt to my letter related to all that.


This is not in my forefront at present but for the next Council Tax round our authorities are  now having to contend with the changed  and byzantine arithmetic of business rate retention and general funding cuts, but also sanctimonious ministerial bullying, fatuously at the  “immorality” of council tax increases. Possibly, but arithmetic will prevail. Spendthrift habits for senior pay etc must of course be curbed but central government is responsible for such as the public pension scheme and other interventions  impacting locally.  We can only wish for them to successfully cut cost, overheads and ‘glamour’ spending and not services.


A Good New Year to you all

Peter Webb

Peter Webb,
29 Dec 2012, 03:08