Election News: A look at the council’s finances

Fat catLocal Government finance is a labyrinth. The Council’s accounts are a piece of masterful obfuscation. On the face of it they do a remarkably good job, consistently under shooting budgets, and making efficiency savings. But remember, this is the Council which blew £1.3 million of your money on golden goodbyes for senior officers.

SSDC’s council Tax at £1,449 for a Band D property is the highest in Somerset. Only £9 million (10 per cent) of the tax raised is spent by the District Council. (See this post). However the Council has additional sources of revenue –
Government grants (still your money!) – £11 million (14%)
Benefit Subsidy (still your money!) –  £46 million (56%)
Fees and charges  -£14 million (17%)
Income from investments –  £1.3 million (2%)

This gives it a combined income in the region of £81.8 million, about £521 per member of the population it serves.

That’s the easy part. Unraveling where all the money went is not easy, since the Council very cleverly mixes up all the expenditure under arbitrary  and sometimes inpenetrable headings. It also talks about “net expenditure” (the amount of council tax payers’ money spent after taking into account other income and grants). It is therefore not easy to see exactly how much money was spent, and on what.

If you see the District Council’s job as simply collecting rubbish, keeping the streets clean, regulating planning and building control, then you might wonder where the rest of the money was spent.

Looking at the Council’s website, there appear to be a number  of worthy, but ultimately ineffectual activities which would  only by missed by the jobsworths who have responsibility for them.

Here is a list of items, taken from the last published accounts for 2009/10, published in September. They have been chosen because they have more than a whiff of jargon and wonk-speak about them, and they surely do not (can not?) deliver the value of the funds spent on them. Bonfire anyone?

Item                                      £000
Strategic management            718
Place & Performance              404
Economic development          576
Spatial Policy                         2,471
Third Sector & Partnerships  332
Local Strategic partnerships    55
Total                                     £4,556

People costs.

The SSDC employs 520 people at a total cost in 2010 of some £19.3million. That’s an average of £37,136 per employee! Wow! Plenty of scope for a cost/benefit analysis there.

Conclusion
There is room for cuts which would prune the establishment, without cutting so-called front line jobs or damaging essential services. Every little helps as the saying goes, but in order to have an effect on the level of Council Tax, the other beneficiaries from this pot of gold also have to make equally dramatic cuts – the Police, The County Council, the Fire and Rescue service. Only 10 per cent of your Council Tax goes to the District Council, remember.

The Blog would welcome your comments, especially if you are a candidate in the forthcoming elections.

HMS Pinafore at Milborne Port – 27 -30 April

Milborne Port HMS Pinafore
Book now!

Two Horsington Residents – Chris Bailward and Richard Gaunt – are taking to the stage at the Milborne Port Opera for a spectacular production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “HMS Pinafore” from April 27th – 30th.

This well-known  opera is a wonderful parody of social class, combined with Gilbertian “topsy turvey”, where the social order can be transformed during the course of a song.

It is particularly appropriate for the week of the royal wedding , because the work deals with snobbery and  the thorny issue of marriage above and below one’s class or station, and how an accident of birth can  decide one’s future –or can it? The work also features not one, but three weddings.

Also appearing are Andrew Armstrong (Captn Corcoran), and Caroline d’Cruz (musical director), both accomplished musicians, who will be familiar to patrons of Paddy Hughes’s concerts in the Horsington Village Hall.

The MPO is an acclaimed local group with a high standard. It celebrated its 20th birthday last year. New singers and actors are always welcome. Weekly rehearsals start in September, so it’s an ideal way to pass the winter months.

Milborne Port is a 10-minute drive away. The opera is in the village hall, transformed for the occasion. 7.30 pm.

How to book tickets The Box Office is now open – 07926 983585 or tickets@milborneportopera.co.uk Tickets £10 (Conc. £8 Wed/Thurs only) – Book early to avoid disappointment!

Also available from Wayne’s butchers and the Post Office, Milborne Port

More information

Recycling Centres to cut hours

Somerset’s recycling centres have cut their hours from Monday 4th April. The centre at Castle Cary will be closed on Thursday and Friday, and Yeovil on Tuesday and Wednesday each week. The opening hours will also change. The centres will open at 8 am, and close at 7pm on Mondays, 4pm on other weekdays and Saturdays, and 1pm on Sundays.

Certain materials will incur charges – gas bottles, soil and hardcore, tyres.

The changes in hours are offset to a certain extent by the increased household collection of cardboard, clothing, and plastic bottles.

More details

Blogitorial

Horsington Oil filed
Helicopter view of the proposed refinery at Horsington. The dotted line across the picture indicates the route of the Portishead-Poole pipeline

 Of course you all spotted that the oil refinery story was an April Fool spoof. It all started when one of our residents had a slightly leaking oil tank and the editor began wondering what the outcome might be if any of the  oil found its way onto the marsh.

Keep the comments coming. These are “unmoderated”, in that they are published immediately without any human involvement. The downside of this is that the occasionnal rogue or spam comment gets in, but we weed these out as soon as we spot them.

A price worth paying for free speech.

You can email the editor at editor@idnet.com

Horsington Magazine Launched

The first issue of “The Villager”, Horsington and South Cheriton’s new magazine is now out. Unfortunately not all parts of the village have received their copies yet, including the blog bunker, so it is difficult to comment.

Silas Silage, our gardening man, who gets out and about more than the editor, was able to glimpse a copy in the pub, but was  unable to read  it properly without his glasses. He moans that the gardening column, apparently written by someone called “Smelly Wellies”, seems to be imitating his style. We doubt it! He also reports that is it of very high literary quality, and he thought he saw the word “subsume” on the first page. Respect.

No doubt a copy will eventually arrive at Blog HQ, and it will be interesting to see if the magazine mentions the Blog, and  how easy it is to log on to www.horsington.co.uk/blog to catch up with the latest news and gossip 24/7.

The Blog salutes its fellow citizens in Grub Street and wishes them every success in their enterprise.

Please comment on the magazine – we will make sure they get forwarded to the editorial team if they don’t read the blog.

Curry nights return at the Half Moon

The Half Moon’s curry nights – a tenner for two on Tuesdays – have returned due to popular demand.

Originally a post- Christmas promotion, Andrew has extended the offer until 19th April.

Tuesdays are turning into a major social evening at the Half Moon, and its a good opportunity to meet your neighbours for a glass or two and a chat. Summer time begins on the 27 March, so you can even walk down in daylight.

Debate: What’s to be done with the pond?

What’s to be done with Horsington Pond? Either it sits there full, dark and rather sinister or we see a trickle between muddy banks. There seems to be no in-between.

The ideal pond is deep enough in places for fish to survive in times of heat but with shallow, sloping margins that encourage plant growth to support both flora and fauna.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the young children of the village could play in it without fear of falling into deep water, catching minnows in jars and learning about the multitude of wild-life that it could support? The kingfisher, even now an occasional visitor, could be seen more regularly in all his iridescent glory.

For starters the current sluice gate is incapable of controlling the pond level: it is all or nothing. If we want to be able to empty the pond then the sluice must be set lower.

However the problem seems to be more fundamental than that. We are told that the pond has a stone base and that when it was cleaned, it was excavated to that level. But looking at the profile, this seems far too deep. If the base level was raised by a couple of feet the pond would become a much more welcoming haven for wildlife. The addition of several lorry loads of stone and the formation of a weir, to take the place of the sluice, would give the residents of Horsington a much more pleasant village feature but no doubt the Environmental Police will throw up their collective hands in horror at such a suggestion.

For starters how about employing a hydrologist to prepare a feasibility study? This is the sort of project beloved by the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers and the Somerset Wildlife Trust would surely love to have some input.

Come on Parish Council – do something positive.

Chris Bailward
We thank Chris very much for his contribution, and hope other readers will comment or make constructive suggestions -Ed

Fabulous Folk Band at Horsington Village Hall – 16 April

Saturday 16th April 2011 at 7.30 p.m. (doors open at 7.00 p.m.)

 In memory of ALFIE JACK MORLAND
(Adored 5 month old grandson of Anthea and Paddy Hughes)

In aid of brain tumour research.

Another magic night!

The Fabulous Folk Band
“String Whistle”
With guest singer Anne Rickard.

“String” is DAVE RICKARD who plays keyboard and guitar and sings. “Whistle” is ROB MITCHELL who plays every wind instrument from tin whistle, pan pipes, flutes and the family of recorders to clarinet and a set of saxophones; he sings too.

Guest contralto who has her own close harmony group is ANNE RICKARD.

Their repertoire ranges from Irish jigs to ethereal Enya-like airs, from Highland and Island laments to a quaint Elizabethan Pavane, from Bob Dylan to blues from the “deep south”.

You will be enchanted.

Tickets are £10 each and proceeds will go to  “The Samantha Dickson Brain Tumour Trust (Alfie Morland Fund)”

Tickets Available from Paddy Hughes (01963 370323) Rose Lawn, Broadmoor Lane, Horsington, BA8 0EQ or Richard Joyce (01963 370749) The Old Toll House, South Cheriton, BA8 0BE. Email Joycerichard60@yahoo.co.uk

Please make cheques payable to “The Samantha Dickson BTT (Alfie Morland Fund)”

If you can’t be there, please consider a donation.

Thanks for making Alfie’s short life even more worthwhile.