John's Jottings for December 2005

John Ward

Please note: these Jottings are purely personal comment, and do not necessarily or directly represent the policy of either the Conservative Party or the Conservative Group on Medway Council.

Upon Closer Inspection...

I wonder how many people in this country are aware of just how much of their tax money, both national and local, is squandered on internal bureaucratic exercises?

The reason I mention this is because I recently commissioned an exercise within the council to ascertain just how much the audits and inspections imposed on us by central government were now costing, and how this had changed year-on-year. It is a subject I have touched on in the past, but even I was not fully prepared for the shock of just how much is involved.

Below is a table showing how much Medway Council has had to pay in audit fees and inspection costs for each year since its inception in 1998. I think the figures, and especially the vast increase in these costs, will astonish just about everyone who reads this:

Medway CouncilAudit FeeInspectionTotal
2005-2006 (budgeted)282,50080,000342,500

Note how there were no inspection costs at all until the Soviet-style Blair machine got fully into gear. Meanwhile, audit fees rocketed.

Note also, and most particularly, that the above figures cover only the formal charges: the cost in senior staff time is a huge additional expense, and also takes those council officers away from their primary duties of delivering services to the people of Medway.

All of this serves to show how just one hidden kind of cost (effectively a stealth tax) can make such a big difference. In this case, the yearly formal costs alone now amount to over half a percent of your council tax, and the charges to date are already over two million pounds! And this is just one area of costs (notably always imposed by central government) that local authorities now bear and for which they are so often criticised.

It is simply because so many residents of this country do not know the facts behind the figures, if indeed they even know the true figures themselves, that they can so easily be misled and become pawns in someone else's game of chess. One of my personal missions is to ensure that the residents in my ward are not only better informed, but that they will also check these matters out for themselves, independently of me and my colleagues. Only that way will they come to realise some genuine truths, and will be very difficult to fool again in future.

In the traditional Horsted ward, this was already largely the case anyway; but in the new parts of the more recently expanded Rochester South ward we have been waking people up to all manner of truths. Again, the best truths are those you discover yourself, which is why although I can quote facts and figures galore, I most often encourage folk to check it out for themselves.

That kind of education, in the University of Life, is among the most valuable anyone can acquire. All I can (and should) do is point the way, providing just enough material to show that it is a real issue and worthwhile putting in the minimal effort to investigate for oneself.

I'm sure you now have at least an idea of why!

Next time: Fun and Frolics in the Farmyard