I’m kidding Mr Ilminster man, I know full well that your village has never been that interesting.
In Ilminster’s defence, it was always a very, very pretty place. Unfortunately, Tesco decided that they hadn’t ruined enough of England’s small towns and they slapped a behemoth of a store right slap bang in the middle, altering the entire one-way system of the town to suit them along the way. All roads lead to Tesco and any attempt to get to Ilminster town centre from the south is criminally difficult. There was some resistance but, as is usual, it was futile. Unlike the mighty Chard Town, who told the uppity grocer to sling its hook when it wanted to build on the Cricket Club, Ilminster council couldn’t wait for their town to wither and die.
Not so pretty.
If I’m honest, and I’m usually unwisely so, Chard was lucky that Tescos came calling over a decade ago. For those that don't know, the Cricket Club is between the Phoenix pub and Holyrood School, backing on to the football club, the rugby club and the youth club to its right and the tennis club to its left. Smack dab in the centre of Chard. They would have raped the roads to get their access, killing all those clubs and the town centre shops, with a juicy market for the school kids.
They wanted to build over this. Unbelievable.
Like I said though, Chard was lucky this happened a decade ago, this current crop of councillors (no pun intended) seem determined to do their own pockets the honour of being served and think a covenant is a quaint idea, that should be overturned as soon as they think people aren’t looking. Voting to omit the public and the press from the discussions of the council’s budget seems, to this observer at least, devious, snide and utterly repugnant and those aren’t terms I sling around lightly.
Still, even the Chard coven have thought better of increasing the Council Tax precept in these straightened times, something the ivory tower dwellers in the neighbouring parish don’t quite seem to grasp.
Ilminster Council have increased the precept by 39%.
I kid you not.
And what is the reason for this colossal hike? It would seem that it’s all about the kids. A youth council, new skate park, another new skate park and, um, that’s about it. The councillors of this soon to be kiddies paradise, have arrogantly asserted that the increase is equivalent to a Mars bar a week, that anyone complaining is being petty and if you don’t like it then you should stand for election.
Ha! There are people on that council that have been on it for many, many years. The mayorship is handed around between them and the meetings have taken place at the same hotel for quite some time. Oh, the hotel belongs to one of the councillors, but it’s not dodgy or anything.
If you have ever worked in the service industry you will know that after a while you attain a kind of invisibility. People talk as if you weren’t there and their true personality is on show. Having seen the various meetings of councillors, the Rotary club, Probus and the Lodge, I can tell you that the common denominator I noticed is vanity. Lots of arrogance too but without a shadow of a doubt, vanity is primarily on show.
They want to be remembered as altruistic, wise and as good servants to the town. They also want to make sure they make a few quid along the way but then there's nothing wrong with that... Unless you don't understand the meaning of the words altruistic and servant. Speaking as someone who has been a servant, and probably will be until the end of my days, the best of us are hardly noticed and rarely remembered.
Get the rubbish picked up, mend the potholes, keep the streets lit and protect the dwindling green spaces from men with nothing but pound signs in their eyes.
Oh, and while I'm banging this here drum, if the Ilminster mayor and her friends insist that this rise is supported by the majority of the town, then why not put it to a referendum?
I'm sure the councillors are laughing at such a naive idea. Surely the councillors are given a mandate to make these decisions when they are elected? The motion was unanimously voted through by democratically elected people and they will answer to their critics at the next election. Why, the council is there to do exactly this sort of thing, a referendum on every little issue, even every big issue, would be massive waste of time and money.
Very true. This is the system and that is the normal order of business.
Except when it isn't.
Since December of 2011, any council tax rise above 3.5% has to be put to a referendum.
"Under plans unveiled by Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles, councils losing a referendum would have to revert to a lower increase in bills.
Councils seeking to raise bills in tough economic times needed a "direct democratic mandate" to do so, he said.
But council groups said referendums should not be "decreed by Whitehall".
Ministers have offered English councils £650m in cash to freeze bills next year. However, at least one council - Brighton and Hove Council - has said it intends to raise council tax saying government budget cuts have made this necessary.
Powers to hold local referendums over council tax were approved as part of the Localism Act, passed by Parliament recently.
Mr Pickles announced on Thursday that the trigger for a council tax vote would be any council proposing a hike in bills of more than 3.5%."
So then, this massive rise comes at a time when the government have made funds available to local councils to fund a freeze in Council Tax. I am fully aware that the money comes from the public in the first bloody place and any moving of funds from one place to another is all an accountant’s trick designed to pay for Turkey Army jobs. “We’ve made money available!” is an attempt to paint the government as a philanthropic entity to distract you from the fact that it was your money to start with and it was taken by threat of jail.
But I digress.
Thirty Nine percent?! Yeah. Good luck with that.
Well then Ilminster council and Chard & Ilminster News, why haven't the good folk of Ilminster been informed of this little piece of government legislation?
I think they might have something to say about your Mars Bar a week increase.
IT'LL ROT YER TOWN!