Piers McCauslandI go through phases of Twitter evangelism, and while I have my doubts about its value, I cannot deny that I enjoy using it enormously. But my passion alone has not been enough to persuade one of my colleagues, Piers McCausland, to use it actively.

I did get him to set up an account, which he tweeted from a few times but then left.

He is now, however, the Mayor of Wandsworth and I think that would make tweets from him incredibly interesting.

The mayoralty in Wandsworth is ceremonial (there are only a couple of London boroughs that have executive mayors). The mayor acts as the borough’s first citizen, and is often called upon to be the dignitary at various events and functions, and presides over council meetings as the chairman.

However, this does mean he gets to see an enormous amount of the best of Wandsworth; from charities and community groups, through to schools, care homes, new and old businesses Piers will visiting them all over the coming year. Combine with this that Piers is an incredibly insightful character and I think he could provide a really fascinating insider view of Wandsworth at it’s best.

If you’re on Twitter, would you consider sending a short tweet to @PiersMcC to tell him you’d love to know what the Mayor is up to? It might not be the best Twitter campaign going, but I think it’s worth it.

Piers McCausland
My favourite photo of Piers, and not because he's walking away from me!

After the tragic death of the Mayor of Wandsworth, Brian Prichard, it’s time to choose a new Mayor. And I’m delighted that Piers McCausland will be taking on the responsibility of first citizen tonight.

Piers and I were both elected to the council in 1998 and I don’t think anyone would disagree with me saying that he is one of the council’s bigger characters.

He has a dry sense of humour and (I hope he won’t be upset by me saying) a slight eccentricity that hides a sharp intellect. All qualities that will go towards making him a fine Mayor for the borough.

I wish him luck for the forthcoming year.

One of my colleagues, Piers McCausland, has written a little piece over on ConservativeHome about the lack of local control of business rates.  Assuming many readers of this blog do not read ConservativeHome’s local government pages I have copied the article below.

It raises an interesting point.  Part of what makes a successful community are the businesses that settle there, and, therefore, surely the local government should have more control over what they are taxed.  Of course, it was a previous Conservative government that centralised control of business rates, partly because they were being abused by some short-sighted councils who saw business rates as an easy and relatively painless source of extra revenue, resulting in excessive rate rises for the area’s businesses.

However, we’re now seeing those very businesses we want to encourage being hammered by central government’s failure to appreciate the impact of the end of transitional relief.  The council is doing all it can to help businesses in the recession, but in some cases businesses faced bills that had quadrupled in size before the government belatedly stepped in.  Piers raises the case of a launderette on St John’s Hill that faces closure because it just cannot afford the rates bill.  I am sure it’s not the only business in a similar situation.

Piers’ article:

Business rates must return to local control or the Government will tax successful enterprises out of business

Cllr Piers McCausland is a member of Wandsworth Council and argues that the setting of business rates must return to local control.

Small businesses have financed the Government and have helped local councils pull up many rundown areas by their bootstraps.  But precisely where these partners have succeeded, they are being pilloried by this Government.

Instead of fiscal sympathy in an economic downturn for those who have successfully regenerated their areas, they have bitten the hand that feeds them.  Business rates have climbed into the stratosphere with retailers the hardest hit.

Soon the prosperous tomorrow will be replaced by rows of steel shuttered parades in your ward and wards across the country. For in truth there is precious little many local councils can do, though Wandsworth is proposing a hardship contribution for the hardest hit.

This blight is largely made at the centre with its demand for uniformity in business rates throughout England and Wales.

Businesses with a potentially prosperous tomorrow and “indigenous” businesses alike within these areas are hit.

In my ward, a launderette on St John’s Hill has seen its net business rate skyrocket.  Its proprietor for 30-odd years says his margins are so tight it will have to close.  The clientele is mainly working class. Where will these people go then?

The answer must be local accountability.  The setting of local business rates must return to local control. The quality of local council policy and administration has improved since the early 1980s.  It must be given a chance to shine here.