Local Government is not a topic which has been mentioned by any other political party during this campaign for the General Election. As with another subject, they probably consider that ‘there are no votes in Local Government’.
But as Nigel Farage, Leader of the UK Independence Party said recently, ‘Don’t let anyone tell you that the European Union is some obscure issue, because everything is affected by European Law’. And this includes the operations of our local Councils.
Nigel, who is also Leader of the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy sitting in the European Parliament, added ‘People don’t realise the extent to which Local Government officers spend their lives enacting legislation which comes from the EU Parliament’.
A number of these laws are worth mentioning.
Firstly, the EU Procurement Rules which have several adverse effects. Public bodies now have to acquire tenders for goods and services not only from British companies but from member states across the entire European Union. This costs time, especially when there is the bickering of unsuccessful bidders to deal with. It also costs money, which has to be provided by the tax-payer. Above all, it hampers the Council’s ability to get the best deal.
Building new houses is affected by these rules as well and these, according to the Housing Association, cost £30 million annually, reducing the Association’s financial ability to build new homes. The Procurement Rules are also considered both complex and costly by the Partnership for Schools who say they bring no obvious benefit.
New legislation which has been imposed on buses is having an effect on longer bus routes. Buses which are driven for more than a given distance are compelled to have expensive tacographs installed in order to record and restrict the hours drivers may work. To avoid this many buses simply change the number of the route, but some now finish their run half way and this can be disastrous for rural communities since, for instance, some Companies have halted even weekly bus services to country villages in Yorkshire and Cumbria.
Other transport may soon be affected by EU legislation. At present there is a draft proposal to compel Britain, in the name of ‘EU harmonisation, to accept lorries which are substantially longer and heavier than those at present onto our roads. Enlarged roads and the inevitable surface damage they cause will, of course, be paid for by our local Councils and so, ultimately by the taxpayers. The British Government may not want these huge lorries but if the law goes through the Brussels Parliament, they will have no choice in the matter.
And it’s EU legislation that has caused the closure of so many of our smaller post offices by opening up postal services to other EU countries, such as Deutsche Post which now undercuts our Post Office deliveries in such lucrative markets as business post. In rural areas these post offices often form part of the only shop in the village and are an essential of the community yet without the postal service these shops would not be viable. Knowing this, the Government has tried its best to keep them open by offering subsidies, but Brussels now insists that Britain must ask for permission before doing so. So, our Post Office is currently in a critical financial state so that post office closures have become inevitable, to the benefit of other EU countries.
Population growth, due largely to the EU’s basic right of ‘free movement of peoples’ throughout the Union, means that to accommodate the expected increase in immigrants seven additional cities the size of Birmingham will have to be built within the next 20 years. .
But neither central nor local government will be able to control the demand for services which will obviously follow.
Nigel Farage commented: ‘Open door immigration is having a massive effect on local councils, on planning and house building and therefore on schools, hospitals and social services which should be for the taxpayers of this country and not for the people of all other EU member states’.
However, May 2011 saw the introduction of new EU Rules to guarantee unemployment benefits to all EU passport holders and a possible100,000 people are expected to take advantage of this, at a cost of £19.7 million per week.
The extra population will inevitably cause extra waste, but EU Rules state that by 2020, half of our waste must be diverted from landfills, possibly to incinerators which are being built around the country. Because of this, householders are now seeing their council taxes go up while waste collections in many areas have gone down to once in two weeks.
EU Rules can have a farcical effect. In 2005 an EU Regulation on ‘Working at Heights’ came into effect which means that any work involving ladders is banned. To avoid litigation, some Councils now ban ladders across their estates’ properties and have introduced the expensive alternative of scaffolding instead. More money for the taxpayer to find.
But they can also have a disastrous effect. A Draft Efficiency Directive is planned to take effect later this year (2015) which would compel Councils to refit local properties, both old and new-build, to the highest energy efficiency standards. This would, for instance, make Victorian Town Halls and other old buildings obsolete.
And the Local Government Association estimates that applying this legislation would cost Councils £50 billion — at a time when they really don’t need yet more financial pressure.
Nigel Farage has said that he has great sympathy for Councils around this country since they are mainly full of people with a genuine desire to serve their community through Local Government who now find themselves impotent because all the big decisions are taken elsewhere.
Nationally and even locally, whether it is our post offices, our bin collections, the lorries which drive on our roads or how our homes are built — the European Union, of which Britain is merely a 28th part, rules on everything.
Photo by #ashroplad