WITH the financial effects of the Covid-19 pandemic plainly obvious even to the most uninformed observer, I wonder how many other citizens living in the Somerset West and Taunton council area opened their 2021 council tax bills and turned the air blue with shock and disgust at the rise in rates contained within.

Surely with offices and services closed for the best part of 12 months, significantly fewer cars on the road because of home working practices causing less wear to the transport network and schools operating at a lower level of usage, the expenditure requirements of the council should be less than in previous years?

Instead we find that the council tax demand for a band B property has increased - for at least the third year in a row by my recollection - by around five per cent, £70 in real terms. An increase of over £200 since 2018 alone.

If this trend continues, within a decade I will be paying over £700 more per year for the privilege of having my bins collected once a fortnight.

Given the current state of the economy, the likelihood of my wages rising by the same amount in the same period is unlikely to say the least.

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I am well aware that much of council spending is used for projects and services directed toward the betterment of our county and the care of the needy within it.

But it is not the responsibility of the working citizens of this borough to endlessly absorb the financial hardships inflicted upon local government - hardships created largely by the Neo-Liberal economic policies of austerity that mark the last decade of Conservative party rule.

With increases in homelessness, foodbank use and family breakdowns already reported by many local authorities in the United Kingdom, I am concerned that this rise in rates will create conditions for further exploitation by unscrupulous opportunists, and further misery for everyone else.

Those who have been out of work for long periods or whose mental health is already poor from any number of factors in our crumbling society could have done with a price freeze at the minimum.

There must be a better way of balancing the books than just adding more to the cost of council tax each year until the heat death of the universe.

Corporate tax rates used to be 50 per cent; they are now less than half that.

If the local authorities need liquidity, why doesn’t central government increase the rate of corporation tax, and actually enforce payment of it instead of letting companies run their finances through offshore tax havens?

If the leaders of our local authority can’t stand up for their citizens and get them a better deal from central government, then what the hell are we paying them for?