Local government

How green is your house?

An eco-house in Pembrokeshre with a minimal carbon footprint is to be demolished because planners judged that it "failed to make a positive environmental impact", The Times reports. Of course, carbon footprints are a lousy way of measuring environmental impact, but any fool can see that not just the house but the way the occupiers live their life has minimal impact on the local or global environment.

Health & Safety goons

In less than two weeks the English smoking ban will come in to force.  Anyone who lights up in an enclosed public space will likely to be jumped on by a health and safety "officer" and fined £50.  I am a little torn by this policy - on the one hand those who wish to be free of smoke can have it forced on them in pubs, but on the other hand who is the government to tell us whether we can smoke or not?  If there was a demand to ban smoking, wouldn't the pubs already have banned it themselves

It's your fault and you'll pay

One hundred and eighty-five thousand pounds. That is how much a dozen local councils in England and Wales have raised through fixed penalties from households putting their rubbish out on the wrong day. This includes households who have put the bins out just a few hours too soon or left their wheelie bins on the road. Is this just another case of local government's desperation to get as much money of their residents as possible through any means?

Pay up, or I'll send the boys round

And so to the latest attack on motorists and the Government's obsession with giving more power to the least appropriate people. A Department for Transport's feasibility study into "pay as you drive" includes proposals to use debt collectors to chase unpaid fees. And these glorified thugs will have a right to force their way in to your home, no questions asked, and take what they think is worth a few quid. The system barely works at present with crooked or bullying bailiffs only allowed in to premises by consent.

Fat Cats emigrate from the city to 9-5 administrator role

The Tax Payers' Alliance has exposed one of the reasons why our council taxes are rising well above inflation every year - to pay big bosses. The number of local authority staff earning more than £100,000 jumped from 429 in 2005 to 578 last year, an increase of 35 per cent. Peter Gilroy, the chief executive of Kent, had the highest salary at £229,999.

'Allo 'allo 'allo, what's all this then?

Local government have been given £29.5m to train up snooping jobsworths council staff to hand out on the spot £50 fines to evil smokers when the public ban comes in to force on July 1st. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health has said “Officers [seriously, he called these un-needed drains on tax payers’ money ‘Officers’] do not have to identify themselves when they go into premises and they can film and photograph people to gather evidence.” Creepy.

This is not only a waste of tax payers’ money, but also a little sinister. I do not like the idea of having these people who clearly love and crave a bit of power to be able to hand out £50 on the spot fines to the general public. Hasn’t the experience of countless dodgy traffic wardens told us that you can not trust these types of people with so much power? Policemen and women go through extensive training and are heavily regulated and by and large do a good job – but even after all they go through you still get plenty of stories about corrupt and bent coppers. So why invest so much money and entrust the power hungry to carry out such a narrow and easily abused and corruptible task? There will not be suitable checks and balances on these ‘officers’ and will virtually be a law unto themselves.

A good day for Ken

Reports out yesterday suggest that congestion in London is almost as bad as it was when the congestion charge was introduced four years ago. I bet the Mayor can not believe his luck – revenues must be going through the roof and what better excuse for bringing forward the £25 a day Low Emission Zone? That will include 18 percent of all vehicles currently coming in to central London.

The whole extension plan has been a complete shambles from the start. Extending the zone will not reduce congestion, but actually increase it as all the Chelsea and Kensington residents will get a 90% discount to cross in to the current zone. The wider the zone spreads the more pointless is becomes, the higher the congestion gets the more excuse Ken has for whacking up the charge and more money falls in to his coffers. Forget the nonsense about saving the planet, this is about raising money and giving the Mayor more political clout. And it’s working.

Style over substance - whatever the cost

Incredibly, more than a third of Scotland’s local councillors are to receive a “golden handshake” pay-off of up to £20,000 each, basically because they don’t fit the right “image”. Before I go on, you won't be surprised to learn that the money is tax-payers’ money and most of these councillors are from the Labour party. The total cost will be a whopping £7m.

It is reported that the measure is designed to "refresh" local government in Scotland before May's council elections. How do we refresh Scottish politics? Get the Government to use our money to replace middle aged “old Labour” types with “new Labour” types - how very refreshing indeed! Is this not an incredibly irresponsible use of public money – not to mention a complete waste? They are using public money to cynically further a cause that will mainly “benefit” the Labour party, using our money to pay-off a bunch of old councillors so that they will have some young blood in in-time for the local elections in May.

Richmond parking fees

The Lib Dem dominated Richmond Council has decided to charge higher parking fees for high polluting vehicles. This means a family with two such cars could pay up to £750 a year - three times the normal parking fees.

The council says it is not about raising tax and their aim is revenue neutral. But the decision will hit hard large families who need such cars to go about their daily business. High parking fees will inevitably force not only 4*4s but larger people carriers out of the borough but less "gas-guzzlers" should not come as a result of extortionate parking fees. A large family doesn't fit into a smaller car and that will lead them to buy more than one car which will cause as much CO2 emissions as a bigger car. Also, a full "gas-guzzler" is better than any other vehicles occupied by one person.

Anti-social services

Government intervention is always frustrating, but when it inflicts direct damage on people's lives, it is an altogether more serious and contemptible matter. Yet, this is happening on a regular basis to British families. We learn today of the Williams family of Newport, whose family was ripped apart by social services for no good reason.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. As Danny Finkelstein has highlighted, Camilla Cavendish of The Times is fighting an honourable battle to expose the large number of occasions when travesties of justice such as this are inflicted on innocent people by representatives of government. But she admits it is an uphill battle, as she is so often prevented by the law from reporting on abuses of the law.