March 07, 2017

What does government get right?

It was that arrogant referendum liar Osborne who decided to postpone business rate revaluation. Now, for some reason, the government has decided to go ahead with it. Not, they say, to increase the tax take. No, siree. It's because business rates based on an updated revaluation would be fairer.

This is at a time when appeals against the previous revaluation are still outstanding. Most appeals by the government's own departments (yes, you read that right) appear to have been dealt with. But other appeals are still outstanding - about 250,000 of them.

So what a great idea to have a fresh revaluation now.

The government accepts that some businesses' rates will rise. And of course they will protest, and if that doesn't work they will appeal. Cue an even longer backlog.

I know, says the government, we'll offer those businesses transitional relief. Given that these changes are supposedly revenue neutral, where is the transitional fund money to come from? I know, says the government, we'll bring in the rate reductions for other businesses more slowly, and smooth the transition that way.

Cue protests from those set to gain from lower rates. For they had already been told what their lower rates would be. Doubtless they were happy. Now, not so much.

The idiot government seems to have managed to upset everyone involved in the process.

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And don't get me started on smart meters. Turns out they're not so smart. Ministers encourage us to shop around for our gas and electricity, and change suppliers to get cheaper power. So far, so sensible. Encourage competition.

But if you change supplier, your smart meter can't communicate with your new provider. Yes, that's right. Government is forcing us to pay for smart meters (through our energy bills, of course, hoping we won't notice). But the not-very-smart meters can't cope with another, perfectly sensible, government policy - a policy, moreover, which government won't abandon.

So government is forcing us to finance smart meters which aren't fit for purpose. And they know that.

Can things get worse for not-so-smart meters? Indeed they can. Over the past few days, papers have pictured smart meters showing consumption - daily consumption - of £19,000 and more. Irony alert: it turns out that some makes of smart meters are confused by the current patterns from ... energy saving lightbulbs!

So that's two reasons why the smart meters we are forced to subsidise for aren't fit for purpose.

A rational government would abandon the programme at once ("suspend" it), stop the subsidies, and only consider reintroducing it when the technology is definitively fit for purpose.

Could be a long wait for the technology. Could be a long wait for government to get sensible. Meanwhile, government continues to tax every household to little purpose.

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So what does government get right? And if it is so useless at implementation, should it not be doing a lot less?

Maybe - and this is a huge leap - only doing what the tax base can afford...?

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