As the Luton Borough Councillor who began the debate on this topic at a recent Council meeting, I am pleased that people are now taking seriously the question of why it is that some residents of Bushmead , where properties lie in South Bedfordshire, pay considerably more in council tax, but get a poorer level of service, than their near-neighbours who are fortunate enough to live on the Luton side of the border.
This is a ridiculous situation, and it is high time that it was put right. It is a pity that someone who might be able to do something about it – such as Councillor Penman, currently on South Bedfordshire District Council, but in line (he hopes) to be deputy leader of the new Central Bedfordshire authority, which will emerge next year – is too busy worrying about his new job to help those who want to move into Luton and get the benefits enjoyed by those living just a few yards away.
A quick look at the map will show the ludicrous effects of an arbitrary line drawn by some Whitehall bureaucrat years ago when the boundary was first established between Luton and South Bedfordshire. Residents of around a dozen streets, including Furze Close, Farmbrook, Wiseman Close, Lavender Close, The Belfry and Dovedale, find themselves paying about £200 a year more in council tax than their neighbours in nearby Broadacres, or Lorimer Close, or Thetford Gardens – but their black bins are emptied only once a fortnight, while those of their Lutonian neighbours get emptied every week! That is not just daft – it is unjust; and it needs to be put right.
Luton Borough Council will be pressing the government to announce a review of the boundary, which I hope will result in those Bushmead streets now in South Bedfordshire being transferred into Luton, where they and their residents belong. All it needs is the boundary line being moved north to the established footpath which runs from Stopsley Common Farm in the east round to the edge of the golf course and then round Turnpike Drive to where it joins the A6. Is anyone seriously suggesting that Luton’s growth area is going to include building new houses on Warden Hills or the golf course? So why wait, and make the residents who could benefit from a change pay even more?
Let’s hope that the authorities listen to what the people of Bushmead want – and that we see an early end to an anomaly which for too long has meant an expensive injustice for those concerned.