current affairs

Locking up grannies

I was just saying to my wife the other day that it's when the older generation become activist that middle England often takes notice. I'd had a long chat with a refreshing lady who felt very strongly about privacy, ID cards and so on. When young protesters cause a fuss somehow they are more easily written off. But when some grey hairs stand up, you know they're fuming and they're not doing it just to cause trouble.

Cue today's story 73 year old Sylvia Hardy has been jailed for refusing to pay part of her exorbitant council tax. See the Guardian's story for more.

I think people wouldn't mind (so much) the high and every growing council tax they have to pay if they felt the money was well spent. But local democracy is pretty much broken, in England at least. I've been inspired by small towns in Canada and France where mayors and councillors have taken real care in protecting and nurturing their communities.

This isn't to say that English councillors don't care – I know the Green councillors in Brighton care very much – it's just that they are virtually powerless. One you factor in statutory targets and arcane funding formulas the limited powers are reducing to barely nothing. Additionally when councils can't afford to enforce their own authority, due to exorbitant legal fees, firms know they can operate with impunity.

What more, most councillors are paid an absolute pittance and with taxes as they are who can blame them for avoiding giving themselves a raise to a decent salary level? But if we want our towns and cities to be properly run then as well as reforming their powers we need to create a professional class of local politician – and that needs living wages.