Tuesday 19 October 2010

Do some voluntary work, pay less council tax?

This is the question I was asked last week.

I was on my lunch break at work down in Kennington South London, when I was approached by a girl accompanied with a photographer.

She asked if I'd have time to answer a couple of questions. It was one of those moments where I thought why not.

She asked for my thoughts on the idea of people doing some form of local voluntary work if it meant getting a reduction in their council tax bill.

A very interesting idea I thought. I said to her that for me it would depend on what type of voluntary work I'd be required to do.

The main issue I had and which I explained, is that if people do more voluntary work and are paying less in council tax, it means that local authorities are receiving less money from local tax payers.

Now here's a thought. Less money received from tax payers means local authorities might have to cut back on the services they can provide.

Would the voluntary work on offer be about people carrying out the sort of roles normally provided by a your local council?

If that's the case, then I'd be reluctant about volunteering. I like the idea of encouraging more people to get involved in helping out in their local communities, but not if it means people start taking many of the functions that a local government should be responsible for.

I think the girl I was speaking to was slightly impressed by the angle I took in answering her question. The obvious answer is to say of course, I'll do anything to pay less tax.

She told me that she was interviewing people for Lambeth Council's newspaper, Lambeth Life. Lambeth council are interested in possibly starting such a scheme.

She said my comments would be featured in the paper and I had my photo taken by the photographer.

As I headed to a local cafe to get a sandwich I thought more about her question. Perhaps this is the part of David Cameron's 'Big Society' where people are being encouraged to get more involved in running their local communities.

I'm not against the idea in principle, but with local government facing big spending cuts, and looking at further ways to save money; I'm just a little sceptical about the idea of getting volunteers to deliver services and take on roles that should be the responsibility of government.

Let me know what you think.

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