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.

Gardening column

Silas Silage
A large green lizard comes in and sits beside me.

Our resident gardening expert SILAS SILAGE writes on the importance of weed control as spring gets underway.
Spring is roaring ahead, with nature’s vandals trying to get a foothold in your garden before the lawn and the flowers awake from their winter slumbers to delight us with their colours and gentle scents.

The rapacious fallopia convolvulus, the wily  cardamine corymbosa, the menacing  Nostoc commune, the invasive ranucnculus ficara, the lawn-scarring taraacum officinale, agropyrum repens and anthriscus sylvestris,  not to forget the insidious myosotis scorpiodes and its flighty cousin myosotis arvensis are just some of the invaders who can shatter the rural idyll with their choking tentacles of doom. (Oh, for God’s sake –Ed)

I firmly believe that total war is the only solution, and that means strong chemicals. None of that over-priced diluted rubbish from the supermarket for me. Thanks to trusted friends and colleagues at Porton Down, Hinkley Point and Aldermaston, I can normally obtain “The right stuff” in sufficient quantities to make up a killer dose which will see off any unwelcome botanic guests, and animal ones too, for good measure.

In my shed I have a large array of my home made” brews”, as I call them. It is very important to label them carefully and rack them in order of firepower, so you have everything ready and at your fingertips when the battle starts.

But what’s this? An old bottle, labelled ‘Home Made Damson Vodka 2009’. And there’s still some in there! A quick nip, and then to work.

I sit in the old armchair after a couple of swigs. A large green Lizard comes in and sits beside me. And I mean large! It fills the whole shed. It’s menacing red eyes are hypnotizing me. Oh dear, I’m not feeling too good. Oh dear me. The room starts twirling and I think I’m going to …
(To be continued –Ed)

A New feature – Horsington BloggoVision

We are now linked to YouTube.
This means you can watch some really great videos on the Blog, without having to go to the trouble of searching the millions of entries on YouTube.

We will happily feature your suggestions, and indeed your own videos.
It takes seconds to open a (free) YouTube account and upload a video from your computer or smartphone (iPhone etc). Then simply email the link to the editor. Normal rules regarding taste, relevance and decency apply.

Looking forward, we would like to have an archive page of old Horsington and South Cheriton Photographs and cine film. If you have anything you would like to share, email the editor.

Here’s our first video:  Age-Activated Attention Deficit Disorder. Ever wondered  how you can spend a busy day day achieving nothing? It’s a well known medical condition!

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

Cricketers – where are you?

We still need  cricketers for the match at Horsington against the Tabard Pilgrims on Sunday May 29. OK, it’s still 2 months away, but it’s never too early to commit.

Come on! Get those old white trousers out and get that bowling action working again!

The groundsman, Rob Hoddinott, has already been lovingly trimming every blade of grass to its regulation length and mowing the outfield.

Our opponents are scraping the barrel and employing foreign players, according to their latest blog post (although it was posted on April 1!). So we must show them what a home-grown side can do. Unless anyone knows Shane Warne….?

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

Exclusive: Vast oil discovery in Blackmore Vale

Turn up the Aga! Oilmen find ££££millions under Horsington Marsh.

Oil, gas and thermal energy plant will transform the village

The blog has learned of the unprecedented discovery of a massive oil field under Horsington Marsh. Geologists, working in secret for a consortium of oil companies and the county council, have confirmed the existence of substantial oil and gas deposits under the deep clay of the marsh. We understand there is also the possibility of the UK’s third  “hot water well”, which will trap geothermal energy and convert it into boiling water for industrial and domestic use. (The others are in Co Durham and Cornwall.)

The find will create an enormous 3250-acre drilling, refining and storage complex in an area to the North East of Horsington straddling the old railway line. The former railway will be used for a pipeline which will link the existing oilfield at Wytch Farm in Poole Harbour with the refinery, and with port facilities at Portishead. It will employ around 1500 people, and spend around £70 million a year in the local community.

It is understood that the road through Horsington village will be widened to take construction traffic from the A 357, and that the White Horse at South Cheriton will be enlarged to accommodate the labour force, many of whom will come from Uzbekistan and the Ukraine. Management will be accommodated at the new Travelodge Hotel complex off the A303 at Wincanton, which will expanded to include a bowling alley, cinema and fast food court.

The exploratory work started in secret after traces of oil were found on the marsh. Geologists, using very sensitive ultrasound seismic probes, posed as British Telecom engineers to avoid suspicion. This explains the unusually large number of maintenance vans seen near the marsh in recent months.

The discovery of oil in the Blackmore Vale is not as unlikely as it sounds. Millions of years ago the whole of southern England was deep forest. “And that’s where oil and coal come from”, said a geologist. Oil exists in significant quantities in Dorset and Hampshire (there is drilling at Bridport,  Havant , Rowlands Castle and Avington, Winchester). 

The county council was unwilling to comment, but the blog has learnt that an announcement scheduled for  Friday April 1st has been shelved for “political reasons”.

More about oil reserves in Southern England
Petroleum Geology of Southern England

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

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.