Not Mid Morning Matters

JD in the Morning, off air…

Tag: Bristol City Council

Take it home you tosser

In the last month the city of Bristol, European Green Capital 2015, admitted that it collected 18% more rubbish from residents homes in the last year than it did in the previous year. This is the rubbish residents of the city through out every day that doesn’t go in one of three recycling boxes. This is rubbish, in every sense.

The result is the city council has decided to take the refuse collection contract off the current provider, who were clearly struggling to make it work, and are going to now collect the rubbish and recycling ‘in house’. Residents have been told there should be not ‘noticeable’ change to the service when this happens in August and it will all be reviewed after a year. Are you worried about bin day? Let’s just see how it goes. There is one thing we should seriously all be worry about though. Where is all this rubbish coming from that can’t be recycled and where is it all going? A hole in the ground? Packed up in bales and stored on a dock somewhere causing a fly infestation?

Bristol’s excess rubbish is now being processed at a plant in Avonmouth. Cleverly this plant turns our none recyclable rubbish into pellets and these shipped on a slow boat to Sweden to be burnt and turned into energy. Quite why that can’t be done in the UK is confusing but it is probably down to the usual ‘yes we want renewable and sustainable energy, of course we do, its very important to the future of the planet, so long as its not generated anywhere near me’ attitude.

Let’s get back to that increase of the amount of rubbish collected, up by almost a fifth in twelve months. Why so much? The jury is out on this but I have an idea. For one week I put every bit of plastic and every bit of paper that passed though my hands and home into two bin liners. The plastic was mostly unwanted and unnecessary packaging and paper was mostly unsolicited mail and leaflets. In 7 days both bin liners were full of packaging I didn’t want and paper I didn’t ask for. This has to stop and we have the power to stop it.

For the record I am no ‘knit your own underwear, lentil eating, tree hugging’ Green but I am sick of companies and others making me throw away stuff I don’t need and I didn’t ask for. It is this excessive rubbish that is in our control. Maybe its time to leave it all at the shop or send it back to the company or send it back to those who deliver it like Royal Mail with a note saying ‘no thanks, you deal with it, I don’t want it’.

All this rubbish also leads to the litter that is all over our streets. Bristol City Council spends over 5 million pounds a year on clearing litter and chewing gum off the streets. Or, to put it another way, the annual budget for libraries, which is facing a 20% cut, goes on clearing up the detritus that we leave all over Bristol. If nothing is done we will still have dirty streets and we will have less places for people to read and borrow books. There are many ‘reasons’ that this rubbish is on our streets; not enough bins, bins not emptied enough, recycling not collected properly and blowing out of the boxes. The list is endless but these are all excuses not reasons. The time has come that we all pick up litter when we see it up and put it in the bin at home. Initially there will be another increase in the rubbish collected but if we have cleaner streets and say to companies giving us packaging and leaflets we don’t want it will eventually change. There will be less rubbish, less litter and we can make this happen.

I will be starting a campaign soon called #takeithomeyoutosser and it is going to be very simple. From crisp packets, to takeaway wrappers, to dog doings in little black bags that dog owners arrogantly think is okay to leave on a public path my message is going to be very simple. Just take it home you tosser. I have had enough of my council tax being wasted on litter and living in a city that is dirty, the streets strewn with rubbish and bags full of dog poo. We can all do something about it that does not involved a committee or money or anything other that each of us picking up the litter, taking it home and making not acceptable for anyone to litter anywhere.

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Cut the efficiency crap.

All local councils and unitary authorities are about half way through their cuts, austerity programmes or whatever you choose to call them. Bristol City Council have implemented just shy of a 150m of cuts by slashing grants to service providers and charities, cutting services and making efficiency savings. There will be more to come. Bath and North East Somerset have cut, so have North Somerset and South Gloucestershire. Have you noticed the cuts so far? Have you? Really? Probably not as the cuts so far have mostly been ‘efficiency savings’, changing what councils do and how they do it so the cuts actually doesn’t bother you. They should.
You will soon begin to actually feel the Council cuts too, and there will be little you can do about it. Or can you?
Take BANES. One of their cuts, proposed last year, was to close public toilets. ‘No’ said the residents, one of whom ended up sleeping in one the toilets slated for closure in centre of Bath. The Council decided to not go ahead with the cut. In Bristol, the council have 19 members of their Parks, Crematorium and Cemetery tending these council grounds and gardens. They were late in recruiting them, maybe as a result of wage saving or a wage bill cut. On my radio programme we heard that Bristol City Council were not looking after these parks, that cemeteries were over grown and one widow told me she fell into an over grown grave trying while trying visit her husbands grave because the grass was so tall. Two weeks later these cemeteries have now been tended, of sorts, and the grass has been strimed. Why? Simply because pressure was brought to bare on Bristol City Council.
Is this the answer? Shout on local radio and council will do it? Maybe, but it is a little more complicated than that.
The liberal democracy argument is that you vote for your councillor (or Mayor), the one with the most votes gets in, they act in the interests of all the electorate and then, in due time, you vote for them again (or not) depending on how they have done. The reality of our actual relationship with our council is that they don’t really effect most of us beyond paying out council tax and them collecting our rubbish and filling in the pot holes on the roads we drive.  It all seems very simple. But it isn’t.
Local Government effects you more than you realise and to not get involved, to just do your recycling and drive repeatedly over a pothole riddled road without reporting it is NOT good enough. You need to get involved. The money you pay every year is enough for a good family holiday or a better pension when you retire.  You need to hold your councillor and your council to account. If you don’t the leaders of each council or the elected Mayor of Bristol will end up being responsible for managing the waste management contract and adult social care and they will be unable to do anything for you or your neighbours. They will do what they have to do and not what you want them to do, with your money.
So what has happened to your money so far? Here is a clue. Most of the cuts so far have been achieved through ‘efficiency savings’. Bristol achieved 50m through ‘efficiency savings’. Why was any council allowed to ever be inefficient with your money. Every penny you pay should go towards what you want it to, for the benefit of you and your neighbours. Any council inefficiency is not acceptable. It’s your money, it’s your vote and between you voting it is your right to hold your councillor and council to account.
To put this another way, would you give someone you know a £150 a month, every month and not ask questions about what they were doing with it? It is your democratic right to make sure that your council do what you want or, at the very least, you know what they are doing even if you don’t like it. Never again should we allow any council to say they are making ‘efficiency savings’, and if they do you must ask why. And then ask why again.

You are going to have pay more tax.

In the west, Bath and North East Somerset have revealed that they are looking to cut spending on early years provision by £2.3 million over the next two years. Bristol City Council is now facing further budget cuts of £90 million on top of what they have already have cut. Central Government will also have to cut more public services and welfare if the country is ever likely to pay back the debt. All rather bleak isn’t it?

Does it have to be like this? Could you pay more?

There are a number of painful realities we all need to face here. If you or the country borrow money then you have to pay it back. The only way to do that is by using the money you earn to do it. If you don’t earn enough you either prioritize your income so you pay what you’ve borrowed back or you have to earn more money to do it. The reality is hard and, for many, very difficult but there is no other way, other than to extend the length of time you pay the debt back. This will always cost you more money.

There are those who think public services are a right and public money grows on trees. There answer is to tax the wealthy more to pay for it. The trotting out of ‘tax the bankers bonuses more’ is a very popular solution offered to the public spending shortfall. That, like the idea of the Big Society, is utter tosh.

If you want an NHS that does what you want and when you want it you have to pay for it. If you want trains with seat you can sit on, at times you want to go then you have to pay for it. If you want local services, real and proper care for your elderly relatives or loved ones, decent schools or the rubbish collected on time then you have to pay for it. And there are only two ways. Either you pay more tax, buy it yourself or you give more to charity. We all have to pay more or give more. It’s worth remembering that less than 100 years ago charity provided health care, education, social mobility and social care before central government decided it could do it better.

HMRC have released some figures that don’t sit well with the silly cries of bankers paying more tax on their bonuses or with the premise of the big society filling in the gap. Out of almost 30 million people now working just 703,000 people will earn at least £100,000 or more this year through wages, bonuses, self-employed income, dividends, rents and interest. Of those, 320,000 will make at least £150,000 and 287,000 of these will pay the 45p top rate. This IS loads more than the 236,000 that paid the 50p tax rate in 2010-11.

This may surprise you too. Just 18,000 people will earn over £1m, which is up on the 13,000 in the previous two years and it was 10,000 in 2010.

But this is the killer number to the argument that rich need to pay more income tax than you. The 6,000 people on £2m or more will pay more in income tax (£13.2bn) than you and the 12.5m other taxpayers who earn under £20,000 a year. They are coughing up less with cumulative £11.5bn.

Simply, the top 1 per cent of UK earners have 13.7 per cent of all income but they pay a record 29.8 per cent of all income tax. In 2004-05, the top 1 per cent paid 21.4 per cent of all income tax. So who is taxed more and paying more? It is certainly not the 2 million more who will pay no tax at all in the next year compare to last year.

One last thing; these top earners are most likely to buy the services they need and are paying tax to the government for those who can’t. So should these top pay more tax? Your answer to that is most likely to be yes, but then you should pay more tax too if you want the things that are being cut. Or maybe we should hand it all over to charities to provide as it use to be.

One last thing. £35 billion in tax goes uncollected every year.

Painful, isn’t it.

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