Monday, 10 February 2014
Ruined lives: tax the poor, and help the rich, the Barnet Tory way ...
Let us continue the theme of the last post, updated yesterday by the interesting comments of Tory leader Richard Cornelius, expressed a few days after the article in the Guardian in which it is revealed that many of the mansions owned by absentee billionaire residents of Barnet's super wealthy Bishops Avenue are standing empty, neglected and decaying, provoking calls for a tax on unoccupied properties.
Barnet Tories feel that this is an iniquitous idea, and that it is the 'prerogative' of such owners to do as they wish, and not contribute financially to the local community, or to the public purse.
Cornelius does have concerns about the owners of such properties, however, as his recent comments in the local Press explained, as updated in the previous post, but let's relive the pleasure of reading it:
A mansion tax will ruin the lives of many residents
"IT’S not often that I get to watch television these days. However, I recently saw a Liberal Democrat spokesman on TV extolling the mansion tax.
We have also heard a lot from Labour about this and their wish to tax the rich more harshly. There are a good number of people in Barnet whose houses have rocketed in value towards this level.
It’s not their fault that this has happened and often they are surprised that they would not be able to afford their own home if they were starting out again. Lots of our residents are rich in terms of assets, but poor in terms of cash.
Most of us are fairly cynical about taxes and know that if you have a large gap between the current top council tax band and the mansion tax threshold, someone will want to collect on the value of properties in between – probably requiring a total re-evaluation of the bands.
That is what is so sinister about this horrid, left-wing proposal. Taking a few thousand pounds – or even a few hundred each year from someone living in a semi-detached house – may please the socialists but will ruin the lives of many of our residents.
The politics of envy has no place in Barnet. You can’t improve life by taking away what people have struggled to buy out of already taxed income. The Conservative-led council has been successful in maintaining services while saving our taxpayers money.
The years of stable council tax and now a proposed one per cent cut have removed people’s anxiety about property taxes, but we need to be vigilant."
Here in the upside down world of Broken Barnet, our elected Tory representatives object to the very principle of taxation, and pride themselves on what they see as their greatest achievement: the freezing of council tax, and, in what Cornelius has admitted is a 'gesture' - just in time for May's elections - they are about to cut the next year's payment by 1%, only one of two London boroughs to do so.
Cornelius asserts that he and his band of tax vigilantes 'have been successful in maintaining services while saving our taxpayers money'. This is not true.
They have been successful in handing over services to a private company, and paying them to run them, with the promise of some savings - and the opportunity to make vast profits for their shareholders, at our expense.
Services which have already been farmed out to private enterprise have been spectacular failures: the parking contract with NSL, for example, which as fellow blogger Mr Mustard demonstrates here is losing twice as much as we are supposed to be saving. Then we have the appalling mess that is 'Your Choice Barnet', whose business model, balancing the subsidisation of Barnet's 'at arms' length' social housing enterprise on the profits they thought could be extracted from vulnerable adults in need of support, has, unsurprisingly, crashed on the floor, requiring a subsidy of its own from those very taxpayers Cornelius claims to want to protect from financial burden.
The business model for this tragically inept scheme was brought to you courtesy of Agilysis, our favoured One Barnet consultants, who may not be awfully good at creating ways of using care for profit, but are hugely successful at extracting profit from, yes, those taxpayers again, Richard, who have, via your good offices, already thrown more than £6 million into their laps for their 'advice', while our consultants continue to persuade us - or rather our indulgent Tory councillors -that we must rely on their 'advice' even after the contracts are in place.
Is that because you are looking for more services to outsource, should the people of this borough prove stupid enough to vote you back into power? Are Capita sniffing around for more profit making opportunities, such as, oh, off the top of my blogging head, areas of adult social care not yet privatised?
Funnily enough, we learnt only this week that Capita have already got their feet under the door of adult care matters in Barnet, being involved in the benchmarking exercise that resulted in the disgraceful proposal, by Your Choice Barnet board members, to make cuts of at least 10 % in the already bottom of the barrel scraping salary levels of workers who care for the frail and vulnerable clients of this service.
As well as exposing the low paid workers of YCB to the further distress of wage cuts, a similar proposal has been made regarding the employees of the Fremantle Trust, which provides residential care for many of the borough's residents under the terms of a contract with Barnet Council that was renewed last year, at a time when Fremantle were being prosecuted for the death of Mrs Yuk Kiu Lee, at Dell Field Court, in circumstances entirely due to a failure to ensure her safety. Fremantle were fined a mere £175,000, and continue as providers, despite further concerns about standards in their homes, see here:
As recently as December, a critical CQC report after inspection of Fremantle's Apthorp Lodge found failures in three standards of care: treating people with respect, providing safe care and support that meets individuals' needs, and noting serious implications in standards of staffing. The inspectors remarked:
There were not always sufficient numbers of suitably qualified, skilled and experienced people employed for the purpose of carrying on the regulated activity. This is contrary to Regulation 22.
Anyone who reads CQC reports sees this sort of criticism made again, and again, with little enforcement by the relevant authorities. This is utterly shameful.
Staffing levels, and a good standard of care, of course, are directly related to levels of pay: if you pay someone below a living wage to look after frail, elderly or disabled residents, this can only result in the lowest standards, demoralised staff, working under huge pressure with inadequate support. The residents will suffer as a result.
Still, on the plus side, it all helps to keep that council tax bill down, doesn't it, by a few pence a week, so not all bad news?
Oh, and Fremantle workers may be facing a cut in salary, but last year, the year in which Fremantle was fined for the death of Yuk Kiu Lee, the Chief Executive of the Trust, who already earned £100-110,000 a year, had her salary increased by £10,000.
And while we are talking of adult care: there are currently proposals under review for cuts in budget for this most sensitive and vital of vital services.
Why is that, do you suppose, readers, residents, and taxpayers? Is it possibly because, in this time of austerity, when central funding is tightened to the point of strangulation, our Tory councillors prefer to make a 'gesture' of cutting council tax, and make those cuts in adult care, rather than use the few pence a week returned to you on supporting those of us who are in need of such care? You know, like your elderly mum, your sister with special needs, or your disabled neighbour?
In the interest of balance, it should be noted that Barnet Tories are very keen to support one form of tax.
Well, as housing spokesperson and rightwing Barnet councillor Tom Davey remarks, people should live within their means, and not expect the state to support them.
Taxing the tenants of social housing for having the luxury of one bedroom more than the Tories deem suitable for their needs is quite proper, therefore. If they don't want to pay it, they can always move, can't they? Or they could, if Barnet's Tory councillors had not sold off so much housing stock, and failed to build any new council accommodation, and there was a surplus of smaller units of housing for people to move to.
But then ... should we not extend that principle to those residents that Richard Cornelius thinks are going to be affected by a mansion tax? If the millionaire residents of his ward in Totteridge, or the billionaire residents of Bishops Avenue cannot afford to pay such a tax, then the solution should be the same: find a smaller property - and move.
Will that ruin their lives? Possibly.
Compare that to the misery and injustice of those affected by the cruelty of the condem government's bedroom tax, though, why don't you, and ponder that?
It is not the fault of millionaire home owners, that their houses have rocketed in value, to a level which they could not afford now, says Cornelius.
You can’t improve life by taking away what people have struggled to buy out of already taxed income.
Hmm. Well, if their homes have rocketed in value, through no 'fault' of their own, then clearly that profit is not due to any 'struggle', but to inflation, or even speculation.
And is it any fault of the those residents being penalised by the bedroom tax that inflation and the recession - and government policy, has driven them into the loss of their homes, or income?
But this is Broken Barnet, where our Tory masters care nothing for the ruined lives of the poor. They do not suffer in their loss of home, or income, as the wealthy, middle class Tory voters suffer at the very thought of extra taxation. They are not worthy of the compassion of Richard Cornelius, whose sympathies are reserved for people like him, living in comfort, envied by their feckless social inferiors. The rich man in his mansion in Bishops Avenue, the poor man at his gate, God made them high, or lowly, and ordered their estate.
The poor must be punished for being poor, and taxed to the last penny of their meagre incomes, in order to subsidise the rich.
Strawberry Vale must pay for Bishops Avenue, and Totteridge Lane, and Bishops Avenue, and Totteridge Lane can bask in the loving care of their Tory protectors, safe from the prospect of financial ruin.
In the meanwhile, back in the heart of Capitaville, the same protectors of privilege are taking steps to silence any further campaigns against the injustice of the poorest workers employed to deliver council services.
The scandalous proposals for cuts in wages of low paid care staff in Barnet, in the cases of YCB and Fremantle, have been highlighted - along with so much other outrageous behaviour - by our Tory council, as a result of protest by local unions.
In response, Barnet is now attempting to gag Unison and GMB by withdrawing all facility time, as of the beginning of April.
It is in effect, a form of de-recognition, aimed of course, in the time honoured tradition of Barnet Conservatism, at stifling dissent, and removing barriers to the further exploitation of employees, and of our council services.
Please sign the petition against these proposals here: