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BBC Onepolitics show


Last Updated: Thursday, 8 March 2007, 11:43 GMT
Walk on by
Trudi Davies
The Politics Show South East

Gum removal sign
A sign that nobody really wants to have to see

A recent survey of more than 200 local authorities shows that the average council tax bill is set to rise by nearly 4% this year, an average increase of 47 per household.

That is about 90p a week, which does not sound too unreasonable.

But, taken together, the figures mean that council tax will have risen by more than 90% in the ten years since Tony Blair came to power.

In a recent Politics Show vote nearly 79% of you voted 'No' to the question 'Do you think you get value for money from your council?'

And this week a wider BBC Poll found that most people want a shake-up of the council tax system.

Nearly 60% of those questioned thought the current property price bands were unfair.

Two thirds said the tax should be based on income instead.

What have councils done for us?

Cleaning vehicle
Cleaning vehicles are a constant reminder

So, in the style of Monty Python, this week we ask, apart from parking, rubbish, fire and police services, education, care services, transport, housing, sewage and street cleaning, just what have the councils "ever done for us"?

In March 2006, we reported from Hastings where a group of people were planning to take a stand against the rise in their Council Tax by fielding candidates at the forthcoming local elections.

One of them, pensioner Margaret Fisher, was prepared to go to prison rather than pay the rise being sought by the ruling Labour Council.

One of the council's claims was that their provision of Community Officers had made the town a safer and cleaner place to live.

Russ Hammond
Russ Hammond confronts the council

Viewer, Russ Hammond was so incensed, he texted the programme to say:

As a Hastings resident I have never heard so much tosh. Community officers are terrified of the local youths who throw rubbish as a matter of course. I regularly pick up litter and return it to the offenders at personal risk. The council are clueless... with no interest in providing any sort of service to the residents of Hastings...

So this year we return to Hastings, to take Russ up on his word and see if he is still collecting rubbish and delivering it to the Council's offices. And to ask whether if we were all more civic minded, would it actually improve our council services and reduce the amount we pay in council tax.

Russ claims that the council are clueless.

But the fact remains that the rubbish they, and other local authorities, pick up is our own and if we didn't drop it, or challenged others that do, perhaps money could be freed up to pay for more life supporting services.

Straw's view

In 1999 it was Jack Straw that accused us of becoming a 'walk on by' society. He said:

If we want to live our lives free from crime, we must recognise that we all have a responsibility to help reduce it.

It is about all of us realising that we have a role to play, in our everyday lives, in confronting the low-level disorder and disrespect that leads on to more serious crime.

Graffiti in Tunbridge Wells
Graffiti adorns so many walls

Mr Straw believes that we have a shared duty to stop turning a blind eye to vandalism and graffiti to ensure that wrongdoers become responsible members of the community.

Hastings Borough Council spends more than 873,000 per year picking up rubbish, in excess of 4,500 cleaning up graffiti and vandalism and nearly 574,000 on Community Wardens to keep the street safe.

If we all follow Jack's advice and Russ' example would the region be a better place and would our council tax bills be any less?

Walk on by or do your bit? Is our behaviour making council's waste money? We would like to include as many of your views as possible so:

Text us on 07786 209252 or email us at politicsshowsoutheast@bbc.co.uk or via the link below. The earlier we receive your comments the more likely we are to get them on air. You do not have to wait until the show has started!

The South East vote

Last week we asked whether the introduction of ASBOs had improved life in your community?

The results are in!

30% of you voted Yes

70% voted No

In next weeks programme we have a special investigation into youth crime and so in advance of this;

This week we are asking:

Are teenagers vilified by the press for just hanging out?
12 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

Don't forget to VOTE...

Just a click of the mouse will register your vote on our new, unscientific, but interesting, test of the region's opinions vote now...

We will let you know the result next week.

Taxing times

Council tax bill
Council tax is based on the value of properties in 1991

Peter Gilroy Chief Executive of Kent County Council has topped a new league table for Council Chief's pay.

At 299,999 a year, he earns more than any other CEO in England and beats Tony Blair's annual pay package by over 43,000.

Joining him in the top five is Richard Shaw of Surrey County Council.

In fact five officers from the South East make it into the top twenty with all but one of them taking home more than the Prime Minister. Can running a Council really be more worthy of a huge pay packet than running a country?

Paul Carter, Leader of KCC thinks so:

We are a massive organisation with massive responsibilities. I think that, quite rightly, Kent needs to attract the very best people to run and be responsible for the services.

John Ransford of the Local Government Association said that the comprehensive performance agreements carried out by the Audit Commission were responsible for many of the rises in pay - an average of 6.9% for those in top jobs.

As councils compete to become four star authorities they are looking for "very good people" to head their operations he said.

Four star awarded councils have far more freedom to operate their budgets, can borrow more money and escape annual inspections for a range of services.

As a result fewer officers have greater responsibilities:

Many of these officers are handling multibillion pound budgets with thousands of staff. Their responsibilities are much more than running a company or international business, but they are not paid nearly as much.

Unsurprisingly a number of people disagree.

Andrew Allum the chair of the Taxpayers Alliance whose report this is thinks that pensioners and other groups on low incomes will be horrified to find that their money goes towards salaries at this level:

Town Halls need to get a grip and cut back on gold-plated salaries, or they will find that council tax quickly becomes the new poll tax.

Paul asks the people of the region what they think a council Chief Executive should earn and finds out their response to the true figure.

In the studio Paul Carter, Leader KCC and Mike Eddy Leader of the Labour Group meet Ted Doyle, editor of the Hastings Paper The Local Rag, a man with strong opinions on councils, council tax and payscales.

They'll be talking about rubbish, earnings and personal responsibilities.

Join in and have your say by texting us on: 07786 209252 or email us at politicsshowsoutheast@bbc.co.uk or via the link below to add your voice to the debate.

Paper review

And Paul Francis takes a look at some of the other stories in the regions press this week.

Text us on 07786 209252 or email us at politicsshowsoutheast@bbc.co.uk or via the link below.

The earlier we receive your comments the more likely we are to get them on air. You don't have to wait until the show has started!

Have your say

Text us on 07786 209252 or email us at politicsshowsoutheast@bbc.co.uk or via the link below to add your voice to the debate.

It is easy... to take part in the show... If you have an idea for an item, want to make your own report or simply want to comment on what we are doing then please get in touch by e-mailing through the form below or write to the Politics Show team at:

Politics Show, Lambent Productions, The Media Centre, 21-22 Old Steyne, Brighton, BN1 1EL

The Politics Show South East

Join the Politics Show team on Sunday 11 March 2007 at 11:30 GMT on BBC One.

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