12 October 2010

Thinking the unthinkable......

Having read the story of Letchworth Town Council (see sidebar) I have started to wonder what,exactly, does our Town Council do for the Town? Yes, it does offer a platform for discussion of planning matters but what do we, the taxpayers, get for our tax £? This question caused me to do something that I hadn't done before which was to have a careful look at my Council Tax Bill and I paid special attention to the cost elements that make up that bill.

There are five elements to the total charge and they are elements for: Somerset County Council; Avon & Somerset Police Authority; Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Authority; South Somerset District Council and, at the bottom of the list, Somerton Town Council. Lets imagine that your contribution to Somerton Town Council's chunk was £100. The illustration below shows you, very roughly where it would go. (As usual, click or double click on the image fora larger view.)
Now, I accept that these are rough figures but I suspect that they are a little on the conservative side so, out of your £100, there will be little more than £35 to be spent on the town because the rest is already consumed in FIXED OVERHEADS. Moreover, what good is the Town Clerk (a big part of the salary and admin overhead)? What good is the Tin Dunny? What is the Town getting for the interest repayments? The answer to all three questions is 'not very much' and it begs the question, 'Why have a Town Council at all?'.

Now, for absolute clarity, these FIXED OVERHEADS were constructed entirely by the Keenan/Canvin administration. Tony Canvin was undertaking his hedge trimming programme which resulted in the community of Somerton paying twice for a service already provided by County so that overhead has gone, along with the air-conditioned tractor. The question to ask today is 'Can the new Council reduce the FIXED OVERHEADS?'. Can the new Council reduce the fixed overheads created by the Keenan/Canvin administration? Its a good question. What I do know is that the Town Council couldn't abolish itself (if the electorate wanted it) until such time as the FIXED OVERHEADS are reduced to nothing ie debt paid off, no Tin Dunny and no staff. A tough ask, I think, but not one that shouldn't be considered.

Till next time, I'm Niall Connolly