Wednesday, 6 January 2010

EasyCouncil plans remain deeply unfair

Barnet council has been told that plans, mooted as part of the easyCouncil/Future Shape scheme, to fast-track planning applications where the applicants pay extra are illegal. They are dropping those plans for now, but are lobbying David Cameron to allow more flexibility in such areas if he forms the next government. Read the report in the Times here.

Barnet's Tories still plan to go ahead with the idea of a core service (unspecified) paid for out of council tax, with top-up fees (unspecified) for extras (unspecified).

Let's be clear. Inequality is built in to this idea. Richer people will be able to pay for a decent service (although they would be justified in resenting having to do so); poorer people will not be able to afford to, or will have to cut back in other areas.

And what services are we talking about? Plans are still vague, but refuse collection, bizarrely, is considered to be an area where there can be flexibility.

If there is one area where an across-the-board high level of service needed to be guaranteed, you would think it would be refuse collection. At least, Barnet residents think so. A Reuters reporter wrote this after interviewing shoppers in Barnet in mid-December:

In the Spires shopping center in Barnet, a little more than five miles, or eight kilometers, from Brent Cross and lacking its designer name outlets, Christmas shoppers were wary about the EasyCouncil plans.

‘‘It’s worth exploring. So much money is wasted,’’ said Chris Cooper, 68, a retiree, shopping with his wife in the small, partly uncovered center, home to the upmarket supermarket Waitrose and the bookseller WHSmith.

‘‘But nothing is free, so will it end up costing more or less?’’ he added.

Some locals feared the program would encourage illegal dumping of garbage, rather than increasing recycling.

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