We welcome contributions to Bude & Beyond from the local community. Today, we have Dave ‘Pritch’ Pritchard back in the fray, talking salaries, council cuts and the surf tax*:
It’s been a while since I felt compelled to put pen to paper, but there comes a time where something has to be said about the gross unfairness that seems to be happening to us Council Tax payers here in Bude.
As we all know, Cornwall County Council is almost daily cutting services, closing things, selling off vital facilities and wanting to levy taxes on honest hard – working people here in Bude.
Firstly, Cornwall County Councillors (CCC) are public servants voted in by us, for us, supposedly acting in the best public interests, the mechanics of which mean that we, the public, pay them – and their officers – to provide services for people who live here, under their direction.
We have seen discussed the closures of toilets in the winter; now the council are tendering off the toilets in Summerleaze Beach Car Park. Apologies to them for all those people who come down here (as well as locals) who, as human beings, need to perform bodily functions, but sadly we need to use toilets all year round (funnily enough) not just in the summer.
As anyone knows down in the South West, a large percentage of jobs in the seaside towns are seasonal and, unlike many other affluent parts of the country, earning a living down here is far from easy. So, I would like to draw to your attention the decision by CCC to tax local surf schools on their income, in an effort to swell the coffers. Before I go any further, as many of you know, I am not affiliated to any of the Surf Schools, but I am a regular surfer of our beaches in Bude and struggle to sit back whilst this madness ensues.
Bude (like any seaside town) exists because of tourists coming down, spending money in the local community, and keeping businesses alive. The majority of jobs in the South West are sadly on minimum wage or near to it. What we have to offer to people coming to Cornwall are our glorious beaches, and the surf we enjoy, so anything to promote tourists coming here is what any Council members should be promoting and supporting.
Most of the surf schools have a very short window in which to “make hay” and we fight along with many other towns to attract tourists to come to Bude. Tourists have numerous options. They can go to Devon (nearer for many) or move further down the coast, so anything we can do to support local businesses and promote Bude should be of paramount importance to any of our Councillors, and the officers who sit at their desks in Truro. As an aside, I know that a fair few of the surf school employees assist with Bude Waveriders, voluntarily further encouraging local children to get out, enjoy the outdoors and learn how to surf, promoting health, happiness, and wellbeing in the water.
In addition to this, we have noticed this summer that Tempus, a company based in Falmouth have placed a surf school van in Summerleaze Car Park, in direct competition with our local guys. Competition is fair, I hear you say. Fine, until you further establish that Tempus (who run Splash) have 2 Council members on the Board of Trustees of Tempus.
This then brings me onto my main point about CCC and the gross unfairness of the situation which is daily unravelling in Bude.
The average salary in Bude, given that most employees are on or near minimum wage, is the wrong side of £10k pa. So, let’s look at what Cornwall Council officers are earning. The information I have gleaned is in response to a Freedom of Information question posed by a member of the public and, with a bit of digging, can be found on their website.
The facts: there are 25 people at the top of “our” County Council who see it fit to pay themselves between £65k and £140k each year; in fact, collating all the top 25 employees’ salaries together, the average salary paid to just 25 people is in the region of £92k pa. Stop, for one second; think about it. The very people who are closing down, selling off, and adding taxes to local businesses are paying themselves £2.3m every year! This isn’t the wage bill for the entire council, it’s being paid every year to just 25 people. How can it be that the people we pay to look after local services are paid at worst 6x what most people earn and at best 14x the salary of the majority of local residents?
For those who haven’t read my previous articles, in my previous life, I used to work as a stockbroker working in Central London for Deutschebank (I can hear the boos from here) trading billions of $$’s of risk-money every day. These people’s salaries are on a par, if not in excess of, salaries being paid in the City of London. How can that be justified? What “risks” do these people have on a day to day basis to justify such ridiculously high salaries? How can they say there is not enough money in the pot, while they pay themselves ridiculously large sums of money from our taxes?
These very people (CCC) are saying that we have to close this, we have to sell off that, we can’t repair this due to a lack of funds in the pot (the wooden staircase to the beach at Summerleaze has been roped off and broken since April). Are you surprised?
I’m not ignorant to the fact that we are in austere times, where costs of everything are going up, and money is tight. I don’t think money is tight for the council employees sitting in offices attending meetings and pushing paper around while agreeing to cut this, close that… Imagine, in your work place, if you were told you were being made redundant from your job as there wasn’t enough money to go round, while the very person who is telling you this is on £90K per year. Does that make sense? I’m not going to answer that!
By levying taxes on our surf schools, you don’t need to be Hercule Poirot to work out what will happen.
They get taxed on their earnings (in addition to paying income tax) so our surf schools will have to pass on the costs to the paying public. They operate to tight margins as it is. Net effect, people go elsewhere. Who wins…other surf schools in different towns/counties. Who loses? Bude does! Pats on the back all round.
Our surf schools are already battling against other factors, such as South West Water pumping raw sewage into the sea (which happened in the middle of the summer holidays two weeks ago), red-flagging the very thing that people come down to us for, to have fun on our beaches and enjoy our seaside. I know for a fact that some of the surf schools lost bookings the days after the sewage outage, as I spoke with them. The day of the sewage outages, the beaches were packed, as anyone parking in Summerleaze can’t see the beach until they have paid for their day’s parking ticket, via our wonderful costly “number-plated” new machines which stop anyone from doing the time-honoured charitable thing of passing a ticket on when they leave (don’t get me started)! The following day, the beach was empty by comparison (I saw it with my own eyes) as punters voted with their feet and went elsewhere. Oh, and Crooklets, and even Crackington Haven were affected by this on the same day. What sort of message does that send out to holidaymakers?
“How was Bude?”
“Er… nice seaside town but we won’t be going back there, as we couldn’t swim in the water, as there was raw sewage in there. So we won’t be going back to Bude – we will try Devon next year.”
Bad news spreads fast – who loses? Local businesses. Anyway, I digress.
Here’s a little hint for those who make – or influence – these decisions to hurt local businesses. I can see why your books don’t balance. After taking your own salaries out, it’s no wonder why the pot doesn’t have enough. So a suggestion, perhaps? If we are (as we know) in hard times, why are your salaries so ridiculously high? Also, have there been any pay cuts pulling your “costs” down. We weren’t even exempt from that in the City of London where we all took between 15-25% pay cuts when the banking crisis occurred. We all accepted it, disgruntledly admittedly, but we knew that when times are tough, you have to clip your wings. It would appear that CCC are exempt from that. I have to add the caveat that I don’t know for sure that pay cuts weren’t implemented, but even if they were, it would mean that they were originally on even more money, so, whatever the case, it’s not right.
A week ago, I started an online petition about the new proposed taxes, such is the strength of my feeling, I am incredibly overwhelmed to see that I am not alone in my thinking on this as over 1,000 people have kindly signed it in 9 days! If you haven’t already, please do so. As a statistic, I am led to believe that there are approximately 12k residents in Bude, so, in 9 days, 1 in 12 people also disagree with their proposal and I am hoping that many more will sign up before I present it to them.
I may look like a scruffy beach bum these days, but I am a man of morals and fair play. I, for one, cannot sit here and watch money-grabbing bureaucrats bite the hand that feeds them and in the same breath tell us they haven’t got enough cash.
I keep referring to Summerleaze, as that is my local beach, but the same proposals are being proposed for all of Bude’s surf schools.
Enough is enough, so, with the power of the internet, we can all do a little to let our feelings be heard and I, for one, am happy to do so. If it means meeting face to face with these people, then bring it on. We are consistently told that services have to be reduced cancelled or taxed, but I only feel it fair that everyone knows the complete picture in order to make an educated, balanced decision about these people who were voted in by us the public and should be there for us. If you have got this far thank you for reading; let’s stop this madness.
Watch this space….Happy Surfing
*Note from Dawn, in case of any confusion: Council members (Councillors, who are elected representatives) set the priorities and policies for any local authority, so they are the decision-makers (rather like in national government). Council officers implement them (rather like civil servants, nationally). It is the officers who receive salaries. That said, Councillors do receive allowances (see here). This is said to offset loss of earnings. Certain powers can be delegated to council officers, such as decisions on small planning applications. Council officers also have an important role in advising councillors. Senior officers (the highest paid) are there to build relationships with as the councillors themselves, so communication is of massive importance.