Time to stand up and be counted

MOST years since we arrived back from Somerset in 1999 I have written to you about the financial ineptitude of local government in general and, in particular, our county council. People urge me to campaign through your pages once more against the penal r

MOST years since we arrived back from Somerset in 1999 I have written to you about the financial ineptitude of local government in general and, in particular, our county council.

People urge me to campaign through your pages once more against the penal rates of Council Tax our local worthies, led by Councillor Keith Walters, extort from us.

He is proposing a rate increase this year of "only" five per cent. Inflation appears to be hovering around three per cent and, year after year, he has put forward this twaddle and got away with it because there is nobody to challenge him.

While his administration is dire, the alternatives are probably even worse.


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Pity the pensioners who, 10 years ago, were paying around £500 a year for their Council Tax. Now they pay around £1,500 a year. What regard does Mr Walters hold those old folk in? His actions suggest "precious little".

In those 10 years, their incomes will probably have gone up by no more than 15-20 per cent, so in their retirement, far from enjoying the fruits of their labours, Walters the Robber Baron is taking the very shirts off their backs.

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There is no doubt that, if Mr Walters is serious about using money well, he can cut enough off his spending to take the Council Tax down by a very large amount indeed - what is needed is the determination to stand up against the officers who control the council.

What is the betting that at Cambridgeshire County Council, if you want to change a light bulb, you fill in a form in triplicate, get the 50p light bulb expenditure sanctioned, and then get two men with ladders and, of course, a Health and Safety Officer to sanction and supervise, and then carry out a satisfaction survey amongst those who benefit to ensure the light bulb has been changed in accordance with the rule book, and that the process has not infringed their human rights.

I remember years ago that Derek Holley, in his original incarnation, got Huntingdonshire to the point where it didn't need to set a rate at all, so it can be done if the will is there.

Have council services improved by 300 per cent in 10 years? Of course they haven't. So why should Cllr Walters extract, year after year, taxes so grotesquely in advance of inflation? The answer is his inability to say no to those who want to spend more cash. I fear that our county council is again going to show no ability or will to cut the fripperies and deliver a sound and economical basic service.

There is no real sense of balance and, as the old folk see Mr Walters's reckless money-grubbing cutting into their standards of living in the eventide of their lives, I feel for them, because I'm getting too close to joining their impoverished numbers.

Of course, Cambridgeshire is not alone in this abuse of elderly people, and no doubt Mr Walters will don his halo and tell us how much better we are than other counties

Like many others, I want to see a total Council Tax that is set around £700-£800 per household. That really is the sensible and affordable level for most people. I'm sure it can be delivered without vital services suffering.

MARTIN BROWN, Coniston Close, Huntingdon

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