Tag Archives: council

Council Tax – what no refund?

Last year, Ealing council gave resident tax-payers a £50 refund. Many were surprised. We pay tax to the council, nobody expects money back, but they insisted and the supposed aim was to encourage people to go out and spend £50 locally that they might not otherwise have done.

But it was a flawed operation because this was a cash refund. Most people just got the money refunded back to their current account. So there was no compulsion to spend the money locally. Of course a voucher scheme could have been created – like the 20p-off coupons you used to see in magazines – but that would have cost a lot to administer anyway.

I’d like to suggest an alternative idea that really works, for both residents and the council. In São Paulo, Brazil, the local residents all pay their local council tax to the local authority, but the local authority also issues all tax-payers with a card similar to a credit card. When making any purchases, no matter how large or small, they can use this ‘council card’ as a loyalty card. The council totals up how much you spent in the local district over the past year and issues a refund to you based on a percentage of what you spent.

So the card ensures that local residents can prove they are spending money in the local area and even local corner shops ask for the number.

It’s not perfect. It does mean the better off and those with more disposable income can create a bigger council discount by spending more locally, but it does at least encourage residents at all levels of wealth to spend locally, knowing their tax bill will be reduced if they support local bars, restaurants, and shops.

A simple idea. When will a local authority in London introduce it?
Dawn over São Paulo

Ealing on Sunday

Ealing was certainly the place to be yesterday.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, was hosting a Sky Ride all through the local area. This involved shutting a large number of local roads to make a circuit all around Ealing where cyclists could enjoy the sun without dodging cars or buses – Ealing became a cycling paradise for the day and over 11,000 registered cyclists took part. I went around the course and I wasn’t on the official registered list, and I saw plenty of other people just joining at random too…
Ealing Sky Ride

Then later in the day I was at Walpole park for the annual opera in the park event – Tosca this year. I had seats in the front row and it was an excellent show. Tosca is a tragic opera and the action kept everyone going – considering how hot it was out there in the park it must have been difficult for the performers. The pianist even had to take off his jacket…

Tosca in Walpole Park, Ealing

And all this, after spending Saturday down in Somerset drinking scrumpy…!

Aftermath of the second Ealing Tweetup

On Friday night we had the second Ealing Tweetup, at the Rose & Crown pub.

We managed to block together a few tables and a good crowd came along to talk together in person, rather than just on Twitter. It was a really good evening and a chance to catch up with some people from the Tweetup last May as well as find some new friends.

There was quite a political flavour in the air this time as Lib Dem councillor and Ealing parliamentary candidate Jon Ball came along for a pint as well as Julian Bell, Labour leader of Ealing council and researcher for Ealing MP, Virendra Sharma.

Regardless of the fact we managed to end up with Labour and Lib Dem politicians, we all had a good time. Possibly that was because we never had any Tories joining the party 😉

Each time I’ve arranged this now, I’ve just kind of put it together almost randomly. When I’ve tried to get a consensus on date and venue I have struggled because there are so many people who might be interested in joining, so I’ve just personally decided on the pub and date and hoped that people would come along. I think it might be a good idea to try deciding a date well in advance for the next one though, so we can get more organised and can even try promoting it further with some ads at the local stations or something.

How about a Sunday afternoon this time? Sunday March 28th… one week before Easter. How does that sound to everyone? We can continue to use the same venue as they have space, and a garden in case the weather is nice that day… plus they do nice Sunday lunches so that might be an additional attraction 🙂

Thinking Allowed

It’s the European and local council elections here in the UK today. I just went down to the polling station just before 9pm to vote. I’ve had a busy day that started with a 7.30am meeting and I haven’t managed to vote until now. Fortunately, you can vote at anytime up to 10pm.

I was smiling as I walked in to the polling station tonight because I was listening to the ‘Thinking Allowed’ podcast on my iPod. It’s a Radio 4 show about sociology that I really enjoy. It covers all kinds of topics related to society in general and is well worth trying… but this week they were talking about the nature of elections and the apathy of most voters. It made me grin anyway as I was listening to this debate walking up the steps to the polling station, voting card in hand…