Damaging and counter-productive

YOUR front page report '£12million hidden council cash unspent' (September 13) could hardly supply a better example of the profoundly damaging

YOUR front page report '£12million hidden council cash unspent' (September 13) could hardly supply a better example of the profoundly damaging and counter-productive nature of public 'enterprise' intervening in free markets ignorantly, having been empowered by law to do so. Just consider this train of unintended consequences: The local authority succeeds in extorting commitments from developers for various community works in exchange for the grant of development consents. Those commitments carry a financial cost which has to be borne by the developers' customers in the form of prices higher than they otherwise would be. Because of the higher prices there are fewer customers and ultimately fewer firms operating in the property development market. Higher prices ripple out over the whole property sector and increase the difficulties for first time buyers trying to form new family units who have to be separately assisted by subsidies of one kind or another paid for by the general taxpayer.The developers, as might have been expected, easily succeed in passing on the costs because most people are not in a position to build their own properties and for the most part developers are unwilling or unable to carry out the profitless demands made on them by the planners. So, in exchange, they pay money to the council which then has to put this money where its mouth is - and cannot! That this legalised extortion is not immediately rumbled as a 'development tax', the money raised has to be ring fenced and returned to the developers if the work doesn't get done. More often than not it fails to get done and so the money paid back arrives as an unexpected windfall supplied by the higher prices the customers originally paid. The whole process is a vicious circle of financial nonsense common to public enterprise which is actually unenterprising and operates to the public detriment but which we, the public, can do nothing about because it is legally sanctioned. There was a time when Conservatives would quickly pounce on such an example of dilapidation of our national resources and expose it for what it is - a gravy train for those who hold the legal trump cards and fresh burdens for those who don't. But modern day Conservatives seem as blind to these facts as other politicians who falsely assume the status of experts in fields they know little about. Why, even our planning authorities don't engage in active planning, seemingly devoting most of their time to objecting to other people's plans and charging us at the same time for the privilege of their 'services'.Who in politics will stick up for the poor put-upon public? The guiding principle should be to leave money in the hands of those people most fitted to put it to productive use and who can demonstrate successful concern for the wellbeing of our people. We should withhold our votes from any politician who will not actively support this principle if we wish our community well.P D BINDING - Monks Haven, Winscombe

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