29 January 2017: To my astonishment I have found an archive of the first blog I ever wrote, which I kept between about 1996 and 1998, which makes it one of the first blogs ever. Indeed, according to Wikipedia's History of Blogging, the word blog was first used in 1997.
After that, I kept a blog in Toolbox.com, which has suffered from so many technical problems that I have had to abandon it and take up residence here.
Hobson's Choice: The referendum in Surrey
According to my favourite newspaper, The Daily Mail, (here), Surrey county council is planning a local referendum on whether to raise council tax by 15% in order to finance social care.
Now, if you want to be irritated, if you want to be annoyed, if you want to be made so angry that your blood boils, steam comes out of your ears and someone has to phone the men in white coats, then take advantage of the couple of weeks each year when you are allowed to inspect all the receipts for all the money that the council has spent in the financial year. In Edinburgh, the sorts of payment that anger the tax payers are, above all, Edinburgh Festival. Then, I suppose, come the trams: I happen to be in favour of the trams but they're controversial, so they shall go into my referendum notwithstanding. But, and to many who live here this will come as a surprise, Edinburgh is not the only local authority that has wasted a lot of money. A few minutes spent on Google suggests that Surrey has acquitted itself handsomely of its share of waste. Indeed, Surrey has been singled out for criticism by the fascist demagogues of the Taxpayers' Alliance on several occasions.
Within the past couple of years, Surrey Police entered into a contract for an IT system that doesn't work and another contract, for administration, that also came to nothing. Surrey's refuse collection has recently wasted a huge amount on a contract with a private contractor, and Surrey has also wasted hundreds of thousands on a "core strategy," whatever that is. Those, and £6,000 spent on jewellery for the Mayor of Reigate, are the things that should be decided by referendum.
Social care is, of course, a legal obligation on the council. A council has to provide social care whether it likes it or not, so there is little point having a referendum on the subject. What social care probably needs is an audit, to make sure that the social care money is being spent on caring for people, and not on managers. But core strategies are not indispensable, and neither are baubles with which to decorate the Mayor, so let's vote on them and their likes first.
7 February 2017: Today Surrey county council abandoned its plans for a fifteen per cent increase in council tax. They have decided to raise it by just under 5%. This change, while doubtless welcomed by everybody in Surrey except those who need social care and aren't going to get any, doesn't really do anything about the underlying issue, which is that Surrey county council spends money on things which don't appear important.