Alan Castle: There are other means of raising cash

OUR much-loved or hated Northumberland County Council – depending on your viewpoint – has, in its words, ‘been forced into a review of charges for care of the vulnerable, elderly and disabled people’.

It will mean, according to press reports that proposals could lead to the ending of the current £120 weekly cap on charges for non-residential services, such as transport, home-care and day-care.

I am always amazed when we hear councils using terms like ‘forced’, ‘financial pressure’ or ‘in an ideal world’.

Such terms always make me laugh at the nonsense of it all. There are other charges that can be imposed that will not affect the elderly or the disabled and there are other savings that can be made.

Now it appears that those affected will be ‘means-tested’ to see if they can afford to pay the extra charges. The county council claims that only a few people will be involved.

I also cringe when another excuse is rolled out ‘that we cannot take money from one budget and use it in another’.

If there is a surplus in one, what is wrong with transferring cash to another? After all, it is all county council money, partly given by the ratepayers.

There is one way of making more money immediately – the imposition of car parking charges on the former Blyth Valley and Wansbeck council areas.

But that is like asking the Lib-Dem members, who come up for re-election next year and have a majority in those areas, to act like turkeys voting for Christmas.

They know their chance of victory would be diminished if such charges are imposed. But they are, it seems, quite willing to give with one hand and take away with the other. The free daily parking period proposed by the county council will have to be paid for somehow.

Have our political masters come up with a solution to pay for this?

Yes, they have and it’s simple, let’s charge more for parking in the areas where there will be free periods.

Meanwhile, thousands upon thousands of motorists in the south east of the county continue to get away with free parking.

To any fair-minded person, and that should include councillors, they know it is wrong and it should be corrected now.

I wonder how many of our councillors and officers have gone on expenses-paid trips to conferences this year, how much they have spent and what have they learned?

How many private consultants have been called in to tell the council what, in many cases, it already knew? If it did not know, then a survey of the electorate carried out by council staff could have told them.

THE decorations have been taken down; the Christmas tree, stripped of its lights and baubles, is now outside, looking forlorn, waiting to go to the recycle collection points.

Another festivity is over, with many spending beyond their means, drinking and eating too much and shops now delight in telling us that profits are up or, on the other hand, gloomily predicting a downward trend and the prospects look less than attractive for the coming months.

One of the things that always surprises me is that city watchers and those who work the market always want every single business listed on stock exchanges to increase profits quarter by quarter or year by year.

Out in the real world, surely that is never going to happen. There are those that will continue on the up and up, there will be those that will bump along roughly with the same profits year after year and others that will not make as much as in previous years.

Some of them still make countless millions but get their share price hammered by the market. It is a crazy world in which we live.