Want to pay more money over and above Council Tax for local services?
According to Government information released yesterday, community groups and voluntary sector organisations are to be given “closer consideration when it comes to providing and running services” currently financed or subsidised by council tax payers.
Communities Secretary John Denham said yesterday at a meeting of council leaders and key third sector organisations that “the unique skills and community benefits of the third sector must not be overlooked by councils looking to improve” local public services.
Councils strapped for cash
However, any notion of third-sector inclusion mentioned by the Communities Secretary is clearly tied to plans for financing local services through “community shares” – thus spreading the burden of social spending away from national government and local authorities and onto those already paying Council Tax.
The post-recession Government line is that “the public sector is facing a period of constrained expenditure and that with philanthropic donations slowing it is therefore vital that community enterprises can raise their own finances. The strategic framework reinforces the commitment to explore new innovative ways to independently raise funds“.
Ways for ordinary folks to pay yet more for services?
Government news sources added, “Community shares could allow local people to raise funds to maintain or buy a stake in important community services like the village shop or local pub to ensure its survival. A football supporters club could form a co-operative to take over their team, giving the supporters a chance to purchase community shares and so have a say in its future.”
However, what happens to existing funding for less cuddly essentials, such as Citizens Advice Bureaux or homelessness projects, remains to be seen.
Viewed empirically, the intended outcome seems to be to:
- Allow national government to reduce payments and subsidies to local authorities, to;
- Force councils to concentrate on funding core and statutory activities (social services, emergency services, etc) whilst reducing spending from Council Tax accounts on social improvement or infrastructure projects (without reducing Council Tax bills?), and;
- Coerce Council Tax payers to stump up more money (but not call it “Council Tax”)
UPDATE!!! North West Sheffield News Online has asked politicians for their take on the issues raised in this article and their responses are posted here.