Monthly Archives: January, 2018
Why Radical Conservative Leaders Are Rare
*This blog post is just general thinking. It does not relate to any specific body or individuals.
This thought experiment came about as a result of a conversation I was having with a friend who lives in America. The gist of the debate was why it is that, a few obvious exceptions aside, it is so rare to find Conservative leaders who are ready to enact radical change.
It’s not that Conservatives don’t want radical change. Although its a broad church, conservatism is a political movement that believes, like all political movements believe, that the world would be a better place if it operated under the structures they prefer.
But still it seems that organisations, councils and Governments slip, over time, ever left-wards in their policies. The “norm” which is “accepted” also drifts relentlessly to the liberal left, leaving long-time Conservatives asking questions like: “Where are the real Conservatives?” of their leaders, or even: “What is the difference between the parties?”
I believe the truth comes down to the very nature of what makes those on the left, and those on the right, “tick.” The Left is absolutely comfortable with radicals. In fact, the rise of Momentum and Corbyn is a clear demonstration of how the party and its supporters react if it perceives there has not been enough radicalism.
The political right-of-centre, on the other hand, has a real problem. It is uncomfortable and wary of change. Now this can be a good thing, for preserving what is best about society, for taking a careful view of proposals, for not just changing for change’s sake. But it does also lead to a fear of anybody who might in any way “rock the boat.”
By their very nature, radicals will always rock the boat. They challenge, argue, propose and throw ideas out. Many of those ideas are bad ones. Some of them are very good ones. But any Leader and institution that is too wary of change gets stuck, institutionalised, afraid of its own shadow.
Time and again we chose leaders who we perceive as a “safe pair of hands.” Which translates as meaning “somebody who won’t do anything too scary.” Or somebody who’s appetite for risk is very limited. Like the epitome of a middle manager, happy to serve their days doing just what needs to be done and no more.
Now to be completely fair, in the normal political swing from left to right and back, a new right-wing administration often ends up spending an inordinate amount of time just fixing the problms the previous Left-Wing administration made. This is always politically-difficult, as the left are famous for giving away free stuff that can’t be afforded and then leaving it to those who come after to take that free stuff away and be branded for it.
But here’s the problem. Unafraid of being radical, left-wing leaders will push their administration hard to the left. They will plough on, ignoring warning signs, borrowing, spending and enacting constitutional and administrative changes at very fundamental levels. When they inevitably get booted out, all this must be reversed. In order to just get back to the status quo, the right-wing leader would have to be at least as radical as their predecessor, which they seldom are.
And so the cycle continues, with the left-wing pushing hard to the left, and the right-wing gentle correcting the course. Never enough. So with each decade we drift further towards left-liberal dogma and further from any opposing ideas.
The only way for this to change is for Conservative politicians, at every level, in every organisation, to be more courageous in their convictions. To choose leaders who articulate a common-sense view of conservatism and are not afraid to put those views into practice. This is not a low-stakes task. Because Conservatives believe that following fundamental principles of liberty, justice, free markets, family, tradition and fair play – is the best way to build a safer, stronger, healthier and more prosperous community for everybody. We can’t do that if we allow a relentless leftward shift to take place. We have to shake our natural concern in regards to change and be ready to embrace old ideas and new ones. Or we are simply ceding victory to the socialists, marxists and communists. That’s a dark place and a hard place to return from.
Wisbech Town Council Budget 2018/19
At its meeting on 22 January 2018 Wisbech Town Council set its budget and associated parish precept for 2018/19.
In setting its budget, the council considered very carefully the cost of continuing to run its existing services, facilities and activities, as well as enhancing those and operating, delivering and managing additional ones.
Not surprisingly, the council will be increasing its estimated gross expenditure from 363,840.00 in the current financial year (2017/18) to £450,150.00 in 2018/19.
A consequence of increasing expenditure is a need to increase the parish precept. The parish precept is a form of taxation which a Town or Parish Council is able to levy upon each household in the Town or Parish area – and is collected by the District Council as part of the overall Council tax bill – to be able to a local council to fund the difference between its annual income and expenditure.
The level of Parish Precept in Wisbech for the current financial year is £265,374.00; this equates to a sum of £43.16 for the year for each Band D (for Council Tax) equivalent property. The figure for such a household in the financial year 2018/19, to cover a precept of £364,237.00, will increase to £57.87; this means an increase in cost for the year of £14.71 (or 34.0%) to the 2017/18 figure.
The additional cost to the occupiers of a Band D equivalent property (of which there are 6,294 in Wisbech) will be around £1.20 per month. More than half of the 8,156 properties in Wisbech are in Council Tax band A; those households will face an increase of approximately 80 pence per month.
It is worth noting that, according to research undertaken by the Department for Communities and Local Government, the national average Parish Precept set by a local council in 2017/18 is £61.03. In Wisbech it is £43.16 currently and will rise to £57.87. It is likely that the UK figure will rise to around £63.00.
So despite the misinformation spread by some, Wisbech is actually considerably lower than the average for the country and, I think, offers good value for money. People can see what the Council does and hear what it would like to do, and I think people broadly understand that these things cannot be done without the necessary funds.
Councillor Miss Samantha Hoy, Leader of Wisbech Town Council, says “Given Wisbech Town Council’s increasing role in the delivery and enhancement of services – such as the operation, restoration and management of Wisbech Castle, enhancement of the Market Place, taking on an area of public car parking to the rear of the Queen Mary Centre, enhancements to public toilets etc – generates a need for additional money. The council also needs to collect additional revenue to compensate for the reduction (of around £12,000 in 2018/19) in the level of Council Tax Support Grant that it will receive from Fenland District Council and to replenish the Elections reserve, which has been depleted because of the number of unanticipated by-elections over the last 18 months or so.
Although the percentage increase in the precept may look high, the actual financial amount is not – what else is a household in Wisbech able to purchase for around £1.00 a month?
Over the last few years Wisbech Town Council has set very low levels of parish precept and there becomes a time at which such a situation can no longer be sustained; in fact, until the financial year 2016/17 Wisbech Town Council had not increased its parish precept since the financial year 2012/13; for the financial year 2015/16, the level of Precept was actually reduced by 1.2%.
Notice that regular critics weren’t cheering when the Council froze or cut the Council Tax over those years. In the same way they they would have been quick to damn the Town Council if it had let the Castle go into private ownership. Some folks want to find fault whatever happens, but the Councillors of WTC seek to do the best for the people of Wisbech at the most reasonable rates they can.
Wisbech Town Council, as the local authority which is closest to the people of Wisbech – and the money collected through the precept can only be spent for the benefit of people in Wisbech (not the case with the District Council, the County Council, the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Fire Authority) – has ambitions to make Wisbech a better place for people to live, work and visit; this cannot be done without investment of time and money at the appropriate levels.
When a rise goes to another authority – one of the huge ones – it can get lost in the levels of bureaucracy. Not so Wisbech Town Council, where every penny can be tracked and every expenditure seen and often enjoyed by the people who live here.
Wisbech Town Council is hopeful that the people of the town will understand the council’s rationale in increasing the level of parish precept for Wisbech for 2018/19 and not be critical of action which is being taken to drive improvements through investment in services and facilities”.
In the coming months and years you will see the physical changes this £1.00 a month can bring when in the hands of a small but dedicated Council. You will see the Castle remain in public use, the Market Place improved, toilets improved, and the wonderful town festivals grow bigger and better. Watch this space.
Wisbech Castle vs Mrs Bucknor?
Mrs Bucknor and the usual crowd seem to have been suggesting that Wisbech Town Council should not now save Wisbech Castle because the proposed Council Tax Rise (80p a month for Band A, just over a pound a month for Band D) is too great a price to pay. She is encouraging people to visit Town Council and protest it, it appears.
Putting aside for a moment the fact that she was still a Councillor at WTC when this was proposed:
Putting aside for a moment the spin that “34%” represents a huge sum of money for people, by suggesting its the whole Council Tax bill rather than the tiny Town Council portion of it.
Putting aside that she certainly enjoyed stoking the outrage back when Wisbech Castle first risked being sold off:
Putting aside that she has endlessly demanded that Town Council should have prevented the sale of the old Court House by stepping in and buying it, and whether that’s a little hypocritical given her recent complete about face:
Putting aside that Wisbech Town Council would have tens of thousands of pounds MORE money if it hadn’t had to pay for a series of by-elections caused by Mrs Bucknor and her friends:
Wisbech Castle is a centre-piece of our Town. It is a vital part of our history and heritage. If we do not take it over we will lose it. We cannot take it over, repair it and run it without some additional funds because money does not grow on trees.
I have never been a supporter of big Council Tax rises but I am and always have been a realist. Of course, as with every issue, some people will not agree. I genuinely believe that a majority of our Town support Wisbech Town Council stepping in to save Wisbech Castle. I believe that the majority of our town support the rise (once again 80p a month for Band A and a bit over a pound a month for a Band D) is a price worth paying to save Wisbech Castle.
Mrs Bucknor clearly believes that she and her friends can gain some political advantage by taking a firm line against our saving Wisbech Castle. I think she has misjudged the people of Wisbech, most of whom value our heritage, and understand the reality that things do cost money. I don’t believe her stance – no matter how she and her friends heckle – will gain traction. Because the people of Wisbech are not stupid and will not fall for this opportunistic and cynical attempt to manipulate them and cast a shadow on this important work.
In the same way that she is now struggling to claim she had something significant to do with the forthcoming Skate Park (she raised £30 in six years, the four new Town Councillors secured £70,000 in a few weeks) people will see through it, I feel confident.
If you agree that Wisbech Castle is worth saving and that scaremongering about Council Tax is not appropriate, please respond to the people making these claims when and if you see them. Tell them its not acceptable.
Last night I attended my first meeting as the new Chairman of the 272 Squadron Air Training Corps Civilian Committee.
It looks like I have a fantastic Committee to work with and I was impressed by every last one of them. This is good news as a strong and active Committee like this makes being a Chairman an easy job. :)
I am adding a new tag to my blog as I expect to be writing about lots of things that the Wisbech Air Cadets are doing throughout the year, and will be encouraging readers to participate and assist where possible.
John Clark Resigns
Last week, somewhat out of the blue, Cllr John Clark – the Leader of Fenland District Council and its Conservative group, resigned his post as Leader.
Some of the things he said in his resignation speech I didn’t agree with, but there’s nothing wrong with that. People don’t always agree.
John and I have not always seen eye-to-eye on policy (I once stood against him in order to prevent Paid Parking being introduced in Wisbech.)
But all in all John has been an honest Leader who has worked hard to unite an often-difficult bunch of Councillors (myself included.) I think he can be proud of his time as Leader and I respect his decision to step aside now as an honourable one.
There was some rumours I might stand. I’m not going to do any such thing.
But I wish all the best to whoever does take over the position. It’s an important one that will only become more important as things change across the country in the future.
I’d like to thank John for his work and dedication to the role of Leader and I look forward to working with him on the back benches – or wherever he ends up.