Council Taxes & Precepts: Clarion Call

Often, the best form of defence is to get one’s retaliation in first.
I am aware of at least one council discussing raising their Council Tax impositions without any mention of the needs of their electorate or the effect of the rises upon their residents
We need to tell local councillors at Parish, District and County levels telling them that as residents and tax payers we do not wish to see any increase in the council taxes levied upon our households.
We know that many businesses have suffered in the past nine months, we know that people have been furloughed and are on reduced incomes, we also know that many families relying on casual work whether in the hospitality sector or otherwise have seen their personal finances devastated.
Budget decisions are due next month, but before then we need to tell our Councillors that any increase in the Council Tax this year is unacceptable.
It’s time Councils reviewed their expenditures into three categories: Luxurious, Nice to have and Need to have. The last category getting the first bite of the monies.
For example, the last time I looked, Suffolk had seventeen officers and senior staff responsible for internal and external communications. I have excluded from this number those persons concerned with Customer Services, Web and Digital Transformation. Those seventeen could not all be performing essential tasks relating to the proper stewardship of our monies.
Every council and organisation has its own little pockets of waste and extravagance. Even after years of austerity they can still be rooted out and the monies returned to the tax payer.
A version of this blog was published in the EADT on 26th December 2020

Deep Secrets

Let me declare an interest. I first met Willie (and Ann) Salmond in Uganda in September 1990. We interacted on and off through to 2003 when I left Uganda for the last time. Among other things Willie Salmond was the country director for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation’s program in Uganda. He is also a Presbyterian minister, has three grown daughters and is resident n Newport CT.
Willie’s foundation in Uganda was one of our target customers when I was with Standard Chartered Bank and we secured his banking business by knocking fifteen days off the time taken to get monies from his US headquarters to Kampala.
We even collaborated on the viability of small sunflower farms to enable aids sufferers to achieve a modest level of financial independence.
So, it was with much pleasure that following an Amazon recommendation I read Willie’s latest book “Deep Secrets” which takes place in Connecticut, Washington and Uganda. It is a very enjoyable and informing read. The story is grounded in today’s reality of Covid, Al Quaeda and Aids. It is also about the strong bonds of family, forgiveness and resolute purpose.
As always, I read it first for narrative and local authenticity. I am now rereading it again for deeper insights as to characterisation of the key players from Central Bank governors to the “shamba” cultivator.
Even after seventeen years I can still recognise the people, their strengths and abilities to rise above misfortune.
If you take nothing else from this book, you should remember two things. First the daily prayer “Lord, please surprise me”. Second, that Arabica coffee from the Mt Elgon region of Uganda is first class and is the only coffee I know which becomes sweeter and more flavourful as it oxidises on becoming cooler.
I wholly recommend this book for an entertaining and worthwhile read.

Resetting the Clock

In November a correspondent of the East Anglian Daily Times suggested that we should improve our negotiating skills and apply to rejoin the EU.
This pie in the sky thinking has still not disappeared and presupposes that the EU would reset the clock to 2016 before we had the referendum.
Our negotiating position since the referendum has been consistently undermined by the Remainers and their Quisling-like supporters in the Labour and Liberal Democratic parties. Both parties undertook to recognise the results of the referendum. Subsequently, the Lib Dems announced that they would not recognise the result at all. Labour in the form of their Shadow Foreign Secretary (Emily Thornberry) announcing that they would renegotiate the Brexit agreement and campaign against its acceptance.
What the two parties should have done is to recognise the people’s wishes and work towards the best possible outcome instead of continually trying to denigrate our country and reinvigorate project fear.
This is why the EU felt that it could offer us a deal worse than they have with Japan.
And what if we did rejoin the EU?
Sterling would be subsumed into the Euro at a disadvantageous exchange rate. Our economy would become as sclerotic as theirs (unemployment in France pre Covid was over 8% ), our agriculture would be disadvantaged through the Common Agricultural Policy and we would doubtless be required to make a massive contribution the EU structural deficits and recovery funds.
From Day One after the referendum, we have appeared weak because of the noise coming from those who think they know better.
Now is the time to get behind our Government and show the EU that all parties support the wishes of the people and that we should be treated as the independent sovereign country with appropriate and friendly relations with our neighbours.
A version of this blog was published in letter form in the EADT

Not Just the Fish

One of the responses to my letter to the EADT and my posting here (Ils Sont Nos Poissons) tried to wave away the fish argument in the Brexit negotiations saying that the number of employed in the industry was less than those employed by the Arcadia (Top Shop etc) Group of companies.
It’s not just the fish. Admittedly, there are larger parts of our economy under threat, but the fish are merely the outward sign of a much more important issue.
No country can claim that it is “sovereign” if it doesn’t control its coastal waters.
We were in this situation in the ninth century when King Arthur was beset by the Danes. Again in 1066 when we were invaded by the Norwegian armies of Harald Hardrada and Tostig. Later in 1066 we lost control of our waters for the last time for over a thousand years when William of Normandy landed. And, we all know how that ended.
We have been paying the equivalent of Danegeld to Brussels for far too long and it’s time we took back control not only of our waters but our institutions and our economy.
That’s why the fish matter!

Winter is here for some

In 1986 Christopher Andersen published his book “The PO PO Principle”. Basically, it was a survival guide to office politics so that you could avoid being p**d on and p**d off.
No such good fortune was available to Ipswich’s Parks Department employees who are to be laid off as part of a budget cuts programme (EADT Nov 26).
Once again the Socialists in charge demonstrate that they talk about an even society whilst at the same time kicking the ladder away from those on the lower rungs.
What was The Leader of the Council, David Ellesmere thinking of?
If you want to save money in Local Government then you reduce administrative staff costs and other overheads.
If you do not have direct contact with the public or are at the front line of services, where is your value added?  Where are our Councillors who are supposed to protected us from executive excesses.
Instead of strategic thinking, Ellesmere and his cohorts act like WW1 generals. Never putting themselves in the line of fire, but forever sacrificing those who have few alternatives.

Ils sont nos poissons

It would appear that the French are still not happy with just controlling their half of the English Channel or La Manche, they want all the fish in the sea.
But Macron is no Charles de Gaulle and Boris is no Edward Heath.
On the 21st October we celebrated Trafalgar Day to commemorate the fact that 215 years ago we defeated the French and resolved once and for all who should rule the waves around Great Britain. Macron is no Napoleon either, despite his bluster.
They are our territorial waters and the French should look elsewhere.
Why are my Bremainer counterparts not supporting Macron? If the deal on offer is that good, they should be vocally supporting it and inviting French trawlers to station themselves in Dover or Douvres as they would rename it.
As always, Britain’s difficulties are seen to be France’s opportunities. But, this time around it’s not a case of “No, No Nanette” but “Absolument Non! Mr le President”
A version of this article was published in letter form in the East Anglian Daily Times on October 23rd


Bolshevik Roots

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In an earlier generation, during the grouse season the final Earl of Sefton was having lunch in the Jockey Club rooms in Newmarket. Cold grouse was on the menu. His Lordship ordered one. ‘Terribly sorry, m’Lord, there are none left.’ ‘But it’s barely one o’clock.’ ‘Yes, m’Lord, but the Duke of Norfolk is giving luncheon to the Queen and her party in the private dining room. There were only a dozen grouse, and he’s taken them all.’ Sefton banged the table. ‘That sort of thing breeds bolshevikism”
Courtesy of The Spectator Nov 27 2020

Clown Aid

The Government is proposing a temporary cut in overseas aid. It should be seen not as a problem caused by our Covid difficulties but as an opportunity to reconsider our aid priorities. Aid should perhaps be focussed on poverty relief, education, governance and sustainability.
The current system is fraught with waste and abuse.
It is reported that the EU have been ‘acting like clowns’ after splurging £23million of overseas aid on more than 400 circus related acts. The British contribution to these bread and circuses was £3million.
The money was spent between 2014 and 2019.
The circus grants included £182,000 teaching tightrope-walking in Belgium, Ireland and Romania. Two troupes in Palestine got £138,000 in 2016 to help “foster unity and diversity”. Another in Ethiopia got £280,000 the same year, using some for a new big top.
Britain’s circuses received £721,000 which may have been for touring overseas rather than U.K. based education and entertainment.
The revelations have prompted circus jokes such as from German MEP Nicolaus Fest: “Many of my colleagues act like clowns, but I never thought they would actually fund the circus”.
“Taxpayers deserve better than to have their hard-earned money squandered on such extravagant comedy.”
And that is the tragedy. It cannot be too difficult for better uses to be found for the monies – either as aid promoting self-sufficiency or as benefits in our own territories where we have asylum seekers and our own people who need to be levelled up.

Pinocchio Effect

Most of us learned from the adventures of Pinocchio not to utter falsehoods, because if we did, our actions would betray us and  we would be found out lickety split
Whilst we are all aware of the dangers of untruths, many people decide to chance their luck and see what they can get away with.
Hence my interest in the East Anglia Daily Times of the 16th which contained a letter from Mr. John Bailey of Stanton who indicated that the U.K. does not have a single trade deal in place for when we leave the EU.
As I was pleased to point out in today’s EADT, we signed a trade deal with Japan earlier this month and there are 23 other trade deals signed.
So what prompted Mr Bailey to go forward with his Bremainer falsehood.
I would like to think that it was just ignorance and a feeling of being hard done by.  I suspect, though, that it is from the Bremainer bubble for whom nothing about Brexit can be good and any assertion, truthful or otherwise denigrating Brexit is welcomed.
Whatever the origins of Mr Bailey’s opinion, we would all do well to remember what happened to Pinocchio when crossing the line between truth and otherwise.
The exchange of correspondence is attached.

Darwin Award Nomination

It’s never too late too late to nominate someone for a Darwin Award.
Earlier this month the Sun reported that last May, Lee Williams, a hospital patient in University Hospital of Wales removed his oxygen mask and lit a cigarette.
Thirty eight patients had to be evacuated during the ensuing explosion and fire. A doctor and two nurses were treated for smoke inhalation and shock.
The explosion closed the hospital for two weeks. Damage was assessed at £50,000.
Williams ended up in intensive care and almost died.
Currently our man is enjoying the Queen’s hospitality having received a five year sentence, which hopefully will be long enough to protect the rest of us, whilst he appreciates the dangers and evils of smoking.