Archive for April, 2012

Charitable giving, tax relief and the agenda ridden media

Regular readers will know I hold no brief for the Conservatives, let alone any other party.  And regular readers also know my view that the tax burden in this country is far too high because the administration cannot resist spending grotesque amounts of our money on non-essential wheezes that all too often deliver nothing close to taxpayer value.  But while I resent the political class and much of what it stands for, I have a particular disdain for the useless hacks that pass for journalists in this country.

The fourth estate likes its storms in tea cups and the near saturation coverage in recent days of the limits on tax relief for charitable giving by wealthy people is the latest receptacle-centric tempest to catch the goldfish-like attention span of the news media.

Numbers have been chewed over.  Philanthropists have been given unchallenged platforms from which to attack the budget measure.  Labour has been given an open microphone to hurl invective at the coagulation administration.  Fair enough, many might say.

But in all the column acres of newsprint and hours of pontificating on the airwaves, I have yet to hear one reporter explain to the public that wealthy people are not being stopped from giving money to charities.  As much as I resent tax grabs, all the Conservatives and Limp Dims have done is say that wealthy people will not be able to reduce their tax burden quite so much simply by giving away shed loads of cash to various causes.

The whining and pontificating of charitable donors and spokesmen of various charities (faux and otherwise) whipped up by the media, is entirely self serving.  These are the very same people the media has been attacking as fat cats and troughers for not paying their ‘fair share’ in tax.  Yet the media now supports these people because they supposedly want to give away a fortune to good causes, but will now have to pay tax when doing so above certain levels – all because of the evil Tories and their Limp Dumb stooges apparently.

It really says something about how biased and useless our media is when they are too stupid or simply refuse to put the story into proper context for the public.  What these wealthy donors are saying is they will not give as much money to charity because in doing so there isn’t as much in it for them.  Read that again.  These wealthy donors are apparently desperate to give money to good causes, but many will now not do so to the same extent because they will have to pay tax on some of what they earned.

The only rational conclusion that can be drawn from this wailing and gnashing of teeth is that the real motivation for many donors giving money to good causes was not a desire to do good, but a desire to cut the amount they pay in tax.  Good for them, I say.  If there is a loophole that enables someone to withhold some of their money from the kleptomanics in Whitehall, then they are entitled to use it.  But they should be honest about their motivations and people should also understand the media is hiding the reality of these vested interest donations in order to service some other agenda.

This is just yet more evidence that we cannot trust anything the media says.

That Cameron low tax small government in action

So, if I want to replace the windows or boiler in my house, under plans drawn up by the Department for Communities and Local Goverment on the watch of the low tax small government Cameron Conservatives, my local council would have the power to make me add new insulation or draught proofing before allowing me to do the work.

No matter what I determine to be my spending priority, the government would demand paperwork about the work being done in my home be submitted to them so they could scrutinise it and compel me to undertake actions I might not be able to afford.  Could this be another example of civil service ‘gold plating’ of the diktat of our supreme government in Brussels?  [Update: Witterings from Witney has more]

An army of civil servants would be poring over work dockets to decide what measures to impose on me in my own home, no doubt assembling information about my house that could be used to re-assess its value and make me liable to pay even more in Council Tax for ever poorer services.  This is the Cameron Conservatives in action.  They talk about low taxation and small government, then one of their departments comes up with this assault on privacy and individual freedom.

And if I can’t afford the additional measures, I would have to borrow the money (which I have already had ripped from my pay in the form of taxation) from the government and repay it through the already rising gas and electricity bills over a period up to 25 years.  Naturally no one has thought to explain what happens if I move house in that time.  Do I still make repayments for something I no longer benefit from while living in a new property – one that potentially will also see me compelled to take on even more debt to undertake measures over and above what I may need to do to that house, just to satisfy the demands of my public servants?  Or will the cost have to be passed on to the people buying my house thereby reducing the likelihood of me being able to sell it in the first place – perhaps making it impossible for me to move for employment reasons thus undermining my career?

Either way, the net effect will be the same.  More money will be forcibly taken from me on the orders of the political class.  More government bureaucracy will service more intrusion in my life at more cost to me.  More records will created about my house and my possessions stored on databases for government use resulting in more legislation that adds yet more cost to me.

A government that is truly accountable and answerable to the wishes of the people it serves would not get away with this.  In fact they would not even put it on the table for consideration.  What we have is just one more example of why we need to take back power from the political class and operate a system such as Referism.

It belongs to us

There have been many stories this week, but there are two that have dragged me to my keyboard at a time when I really haven’t felt like writing.

This post concerns the first one, the news on Thursday that the government is planning to introduce charges for FOI requests, perhaps involving a “range of tariffs”.  As our blogging friends at Save FOI explain:

Charging for FOI requests would drastically curtail the ability of ordinary people as well as charities, journalists, businesses and others to hold public bodies to account.

Save FOI goes on to say that this seems a particularly strange move for a Government whose Prime Minister has said “We want to be the most open and transparent government in the world.”  But of course, as readers of this blog have long known – and an increasing number of people up and down the country are at last starting to realise – it is impossible to trust anything most politicians say, and when it comes to David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband in particular our default position must be the justifiable assumption that they are lying through their teeth.

But there is a more fundamental point to be made here that even Save FOI appear to have missed, namely that we are required to request information to be made public in the first place.

While there are obvious exceptions where some information has to be kept out of the public domain lest it aids a potential enemy to do harm to this nation, the fact remains this is information that should be released and made public proactively.  The information is the public’s.  It is produced and exists supposedly to serve the public.  We pay for it.  Therefore it belongs to us.

That we are forced to go in search of it (and all too frequently encounter significant obstruction in getting it) is a scandal.  That we may also now be compelled to pay for that which is ours is an outrage.  This reinforces the reality of a them and us society, where on one side we have a self selecting elite operating in its own interest at our expense and on the other side we have the general public, abused and treated with contempt.

If we had genuine people power in this country via system like Referism the inverted master and servant relationship would be corrected.  Power is exercised through the  control of funds.  Under Referism the people would decide regularly where our money is spent.  Representatives would be forced to abide by the public will instead of acting as our masters.  And one outcome would be the end of the pantomime that sees us forced to crawl and beg for titbits of information from those who pretend they are a class apart.

Sign the petition opposing this move to charge for FOI by all means.  But don’t lose sight of the fact that this is our information that should be made public, without delay or hindrance, by default.  That is what we should be demanding, not going cap in hand to the likes of Cameron – whose two faced party (if you can believe the irony / hypocrisy / self delusion *del as appropriate) produced the t-shirt on the right – hoping we can cling on to scraps of information, sometimes supplied when it suits the political class, on request and under sufferance.

We should not be addressing the symptom, we should be fighting the problem.  That is why it is time for disparate voices to combine and declare our demands.  I will be there at the Old Swan in Harrogate with the other people who will be working to frame those demands and pursue them.

With that event in mind, two of my favourite bloggers make essential points that all need to burned into our collective memory.  Firstly, Raedwald who reminds us that we don’t request, rather we demand our freedom, because it’s our freedom and not for others to grant us.  Secondly, Witterings From Witney who reminds us that that the politicians are always the servants and never the masters of the people, irrespective of the fact they behave otherwise.  It is time to make both a reality.

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