It has been very quiet on the election front in Horsington. No sign of the candidates, and very few posters around. In Wincanton the feathers are beginning to fly over the issue of parking charges, and it is very difficult to discover what is really going on. More from the Wincanton Window.
The winning team, The Moonies, was booed (albeit in a very light hearted way) because they always win. Actually, they dont. They have taken the top position once more after two quizzes in outer darkness. There is even a rumour that question-setters have taken pity on them and are now setting dolly-drop questions. Surely not!
Thanks to Wincanton Phoenix for organising, and Andrew and Phillipa for hosting, an excellent evening.
It’s all happening at neighbouring Yarlington this weekend. The Yarlington Fringe kicks off with a royal wedding extravaganza at Yarlington House, where you can watch the proceedings on a big screen.
There is a production of Puccini’s La Boheme, which you can join in, or see the performances on Sunday evening.
There’s a barn dance, duck racing, art exhibition, a circus, morris dancing, plenty of live bands, a beer festival, childrens activities – in fact something for everyone.
We are just over two weeks away from the District Council elections AND the referendum on Alternative Voting.
The two current Blackmoor Vale councilors, Tim Inglefield and William Wallace are standing again, in a five-candidate field. Remember – every voter has two votes, so don’t waste the second one.
The Blackmoor Vale candidates are:
Richard CRABB Lib Dem (lives over the border in Sherborne)
Tim INGLEFIELD Conservative (present incumbent, lives Horsington)
David NICHOLS Independent (lives Henstridge)
Jo PENBERTHY Labour (lives Cucklington)
William WALLACE Conservative (present incumbent, also a County Councillor, lives Yenston)
South Somerset District council has 60 Councillors. It is currently controlled by the Lib Dems, with 37 seats, against the Conservatives 17, and 6 independents.
Mrs Badger writes “ I heard the first cuckoo at 6.15 pm on Monday 18 April. Is this a record?”
No, it was a real cuckoo. I heard it as well at exactly the same time -Ed
Local 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?
Strategic management 718
Place & Performance 404
Economic development 576
Spatial Policy 2,471
Third Sector & Partnerships 332
Local Strategic partnerships 55
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.
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.
The first feedback meeting for the “Villager” magazine on 12 April attracted one member of the public who apparently only became aware of the meeting after reading The Blog. Happy to be of service, ma’am.
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)