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A District Counsellor's View on SSDC's Annual Budget

Thursday 15 March 2012, 17:11
By Nick Colbert

Councillor Nick Colbert, in his back garden I reckon.I have just attended my first South Somerset District Council's budget council meeting and was rather dismayed by watching the ruling party vote themselves large slices of Wincanton and South Somerset people's money. You might have thought that as the District Council are being given a 2.5% bonus by central government as a reward for freezing their portion of the rates, as the County Council has done, that they might make more effort to cut their costs rather than exact more financial pain on the people and businesses that live in Wincanton and South Somerset, but no.

Like a baying pack of wolves they voted themselves more of your money, whilst not raising the rates, to secure the additional bonus funding. People in Wincanton and South Somerset can expect over the next year to pay the District Council, in addition to current charges, the following:

  • £294,100 in increased parking charges. The population of Yeovil will now pay more generally and will have to pay for evening and Sunday parking as well, to the detriment of not just the people of Yeovil but its businesses and churches as well.

    Crewkerne, Chard, Ilminster and Somerton peoples will all pay more to park.

    Wincanton and Castle Cary residents and businesses have had a car park "tax" imposed on them.
  • South Somerset District Council is introducing charging for street naming and numbering.
  • They are damaging Wincanton businesses further by increasing charges for commercial waste sacks.
  • Wincanton people will now have to pay for pre-planning application advice, a process that used to be free because it helps planning applications run more smoothly and therefore more cheaply.
  • They are obtaining over £600,000 in new homes bonus by planning the building of thousands of new houses we are unlikely to need in the South Somerset area, setting Coker and Brympton parish's against one another as both fight not to have the high numbers of additional housing, much of which we almost certainly won't need anyway. A lot of the new housing in Wincanton has occurred because the District Council is using new housing to obtain the "new house bonus" which is supporting a lot of their spending, hence much of the increased development seen in the town.

The Conservative opposition in South Somerset tried to pass an amendment scrapping the car parking charge increases. The District Council's solicitor ruled that this would be unlawful as the "District executive" had already voted to force the new charging through. So the decision had already been taken and had been delegated to an elite few, and councillors were told they had no power to reverse the decision.

As the new charges were voted through the ruling party sought to educate us as to how many widows and orphans would suffer if they did not do so.

There was no mention from them of the subsidy given to the Octagon Theatre (well over £300,000 per annum) which is more than the entire pain and damage inflicted by the increased parking charges. Why not make the Octagon Theatre a Trust, able to make a profit, seek commercial sponsorship, be responsible for itself and relieve the public of the burden.

There was no mention of reforming their management structure. Currently the highest paid 4 1/2 officers (one part time) are paid over £500,000 excluding expenses but including employer's National Insurance. The management structure could easily be changed to save a lot more money.

Sadly, at a time when the people and businesses of Wincanton and South Somerset need all the help and support they can get from the District Council it decides to protect its own empire, particularly at Wincanton and Castle Cary people's expense (the car park tax) and we were informed by the District Council's solicitor, Ian Clarke, there was nothing we could do to stop them.




Comments


Posts: 1
Comment
Keeping you promise
Reply #1 on : Thu March 15, 2012, 19:34:18
Nick

I do not confess to understanding fully both local & national politics, my vote has often been won by those I trust to deliver what they promised. When you first ran for your current office you rang me, not knowing who I was but trying to get to know those you would possibly go on to represent. We had a very long conversation which was both engaging & informative. True to your word you have continued to keep us all informed through the various forms of communication on events effecting our town.

I suspect that a long the way you have ruffled a few feathers! but keep it up. I'm sure responses will come thick & fast but if nothing else, your efforts to keep us all informed have been first class.
Nick Colbert
Posts: 1
Comment
Keeping your promise
Reply #2 on : Sat March 17, 2012, 15:41:07
Thank you for the kind words and support Steve.

To give you an idea of what we are up against I will quote from an email sent to me by Councillor Peter Seib (Lib/dem for Brympton, Yeovil) about the car park tax they have recently forced on Wincanton Town Council, he said:

"So basically, Nick ...

Wincanton Town Council held a well-attended public meeting, asked the residents to vote on what they wanted to do and then it ignored local residents democratically expressed wishes?

Instead, you would rather have non-car owning, rural pensioners around Crewkerne, Merriott and East Coker paying more Council Tax at the District level SO THAT THE SHOP-OWNERS IN WINCANTON CAN INFLATE THEIR MARGINS AND POCKET MORE CASH? I presume there will also be some Wincanton Estate Agents and other town centre office staff who will now have to consider whether to pay for parking their Mercedes in Town all day ... or whether to walk to work.

Interesting tactic loading parking costs non-car users though. Best of luck!

Peter."


That's the sort of attitude we have to put with, any shop-owners in Wincanton wanting to let Peter Seib have their thoughts regarding their ability to inflate their margins and pocket more cash can email Peter at:

peter.seib@southsomerset.gov.uk

to let him have their thoughts, I have already given him mine!
Last Edit: March 17, 2012, 15:43:26 by Nick Colbert  

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