Setting the family budget can be tiresome, even at the best of times. In these days of terrible hardship, sacrifices have to be made and essential expenditure has to be prioritised. The week skiing in Val d`Isere or little Tarquin`s violin lessons? Cordelia`s pony or the summer break at the villa on Mustique? Something has to go, so after this latest pre-election budget, the hippo is giving up the nightly three-litre bottle of Frosty Jack white cider (currently £2-99, available at most corner shops) in order to make ends meet.
Alistair Darling has produced a suave, politically clever but ultimately meaningless budget. This should come as no surprise with an election only weeks away and the Chancellor was never likely to tell us that we are all going to starve to death as a result of crippling public borrowing. Instead, we have the good news that £2billion has been raised in taxing the bonuses paid to bankers. Well whoop-de-doo. If two billion was the tax, how much were the bloody bonuses paid to these blood sucking parasites in the first place?
As for the budget deficit and eye-watering national debt, the man from number 11 explained that away with grand talk of efficiencies, savings in procurement and even reducing levels of sickness at work. This vague waffle will be familiar to council tax payers in Walsall who have heard the same old guff from our local comedians prior to job losses, massive cuts in front-line services and an increase in taxation. Be warned, whatever the results on the morning of May 7th, be they hung, drawn or quartered; it will be double trouble for Walsall.
The difference between Walsall Cabinet and the Cabinet that sits in Downing Street is the sound track. In Westminster, it`s Bryan Ferry; smooth, bland, stylish and lacking any substance. In the Council House, it`s Adge Cutler and the Wurzels belting out “I Yam a Cider Drinker” with the kind of substance you find being grown in empty carpet factories on industrial estates. Darling, though, is a much more intelligent politician than the yokels in this neck of the woods.
Planting the headline grabbing but inconsequential “Cider Tax” reduced Cameron to babbling about apples and Gandhi in the harmless but disturbing manner of a Monday morning tramp clutching a bottle of White Lightening and shouting at traffic from a park bench. Osborne remained silent until his mummy told his nanny to draw him some pictures and tell him what to say. But after 24 hours, it was too late and Darling played the master stroke. Cuts in public services will be tougher and deeper than under Thatcher. “Nanny, nanny, they`ve admitted it; they are a worse government than Thatcher`s.”
“George…don`t do that.”
Going into an election, one would expect the opposition parties to seize on the lack of explanation as to where the cuts are going to happen. Sadly, the tactic seems to be to say nothing except vote for us and we will think about the inevitable cuts later. Brown, Cameron and Cable (sorry – Clegg) refuse to tell us their plans before an election and still expect our votes. There is a real danger of a hung parliament and we will end up with a three-headed knight on the steps of number 10 similar to the one in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and we, like brave Sir Robin, would be well advised to run away as the nutters in the BNP and UKIP would be elevated to positions of influence.
Walsall has local elections on May 6th when a third of council seats are up for grabs. Some are marginal and some are safe and although Walsall Council does not have to fund a couple of wars and prop up the banking system, the accounts are looking equally horrendous. Paying back nearly three million quid to Europe for a monumental and totally avoidable blunder and then increasing the council tax might make even the Tory voting residents of suburbia think again. Even in it`s attempts to outsource services it is incapable of providing, the ruling group has left children with failing schools, the elderly auctioned off for the lowest price in the same way that wheelie bins are procured, more pothole than road and a refusal to embrace a pot of gold.
If the next elections result in no change in government and no change in local government, the prospect is that the antics of this current council will attract the attention of the Ombudsman, the Government Office of the West Midlands and the Minister of State for Local Government, Rosie Winterton. If any of these factors change, the millions wasted by hopeless politicians and civil servants will be conveniently forgotten and we as tax payers will continue to pay for incompetence.
Whatever the result, Mike Bird and his cabinet chums will have to think carefully before they cosy down with Rosie under the hay wagon with a flagon of Olde Zummerzet Brain Damage.
And as for the tax burden and deficit; we are going to have to drink a hell of a lot of cider to get out of this mess.