Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Are you paying the average council tax bill?

NEXT Tuesday is All Fools’ Day, April 1st, and a singularly appropriate time for 2014 council tax bills to become active.

Some might say we have been fortunate to have had such bills frozen for three years but my complaint – if survey figures are accurate – is the manner in which they have resumed for Dorset.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy claims the average council tax rise to be 0.6 percent and that the highest increase of 0.8 percent is in South East England where Band D properties face a bill increase of £11.25.

Well lucky them, laughing all the way to the bank, because down here reality is a lot harsher.

Dorset County Council is among more than 30 councils nationwide hitting its residents with the maximum rise of 1.9 percent, something CIPFA seems to have missed.

Their cosy claim of an average Band D property paying £1,464 for 2014-2015 is ludicrously wide of the mark since Band D properties in Dorset are facing a bill for £1,723.

My home is in Band C and even I will be paying £1,531, nearly £70 more than the claimed Band D average, while the extra £30 I will have to find for 2014-2015 is nearly three times the increase the CIPFA claims is being paid by homeowners in the band above me!

My bill does include the usual elements for Fire, Police and Weymouth and Portland council while CIPFA figures aren’t so clear cut.

Whatever the true national picture, it still means that council tax payers in Weymouth and Portland can consider their bill to be anything but “average” whatever the band.

Will new brand work for Weymouth?

WEYMOUTH now has itself an official new brand which the Business Improvement District hopes will encourage many more visitors to the resort to boost its town centre economy.

The new brand “WE” does not, as one wag suggested stand for “Worthless Expense” but has been carefully created after much research and talks to project Weymouth into the public eye over as wide an area as possible to show as many people as possible just what the town and its area have to offer.

Its launch in Weymouth Library attracted both those who were quite taken with the new brand and a few non-believers, but it was away from the staged event that the gloves really came off.

A quiet coffee got nervously slopped into my saucer when I found myself in the same area as a tirade from one businessman bemoaning both the fact he had to pay the BID levy and what they were spending his money on.

To describe his reaction to the new “WE” brand as “underwhelmed” didn’t do his mouthful justice and his words carried more weight as he was joined in his anger by other business people furious that a levy they didn’t want to pay was, in their view, being frittered away on a brand they didn’t like and didn’t have faith in.

The BID genuinely believes the new brand will attract more people in to sample what Weymouth has to offer, but if it can’t convince a number of its own members about that then its hierarchy had better hope it has more success with visitors because the doubters will be watching.

The smell of summer

DID anyone notice that the smells of summer have made an early appearance in Weymouth town centre?

Recent sunny weather sparked an explosion of visitors, but the walk on to the seafront was like a slap in the face for the aroma of cooking oil and hot vinegar.

If anyone needed reminding that the holiday season is not that far away then it was provided by the sight of scores of people strolling along eating ice-creams.

I mean, ice-creams in March?! Only 32 weeks now until Bonfire Night!

Follow the glow home

GLOWWORMS apparently made a recent dramatic appearance in Weymouth.

These rarely seen creatures were out in force around the midnight hour when most of the town was in bed counting sheep.

But keen natural history lovers such as myself were alerted to the presence of this insect by its unusual call – “My God! I can’t see!” – heard reverberating eerily along many pavements.

Sadly closer inspection revealed it wasn’t glowworms but people desperately trying to find their way back home, any home please!

The late arrival of a train saw passengers join others returning home from pubs and restaurants who were caught out by dense fog.

That was bad enough for pedestrians trying to navigate a passage back to hearth and loved ones… but then the council’s cost cutting measures came into force and all the street lights were switched out! The result was chaos.

Poor visibility instantly became zero visibility and pedestrians did the only thing left for them to do in the circumstances. They switched on their mobile phone torches.

Watchers were treated to the soft glowing path of Samsung, O2, Orange and T Mobile weaving an unsteady path broken only by curses when the holder hit a lamppost or wheely bin. Bed was never so welcome.

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