Why there is no money to tackle graffiti

Graffiti on the London Road Estate

by Jan Pahl

At the last meeting of the city council’s Canterbury Area Member Panel members agreed that the city is currently enduring a plague of graffiti.

At the same meeting they concluded that little could be done about it. This beautiful and historic city is being steadily despoiled.

Many individuals and groups have done great work in clearing graffiti and beautifying the places which were so unsightly.

But the job is too big for volunteers. We need the council to take responsibility, but it seems that there is no money to clean off the graffiti, to catch the offenders or to renovate walls and underpasses and cover them with anti-graffiti paint.

The same story is told in towns and cities across the country. Not only is there no money to deal with graffiti, but there is also no money for clearing litter properly, keeping parks and gardens in good order, maintaining libraries and museums, funding schools and protecting services of many different sorts.

Jan Pahl of the Canterbury Society

Britain is one of the richest countries in the world. So why is there no money to maintain the quality of life in the places where we live?

We are happy to pay to enhance our homes and private gardens: why do we seem so unwilling to pay to enhance our public spaces?

One reason is the neglect of council tax. This is levied on a sliding scale, divided into bands, which reflect the value of the house.

These bands have not been revised since 1991. The result is that someone living in house worth £350,000 pays the same as someone in a house worth £3 million or £30 million.

Research in 2018 by the Resolution Foundation and by the Institute for Public Policy Research shows that council tax is highly regressive.

Poor people, and younger people, pay a much higher proportion of their income in council tax than do richer people.

So in London the poorest pay over 10% of their income compared with 1.3% for the richest. Council tax is also regressive in terms of regions. Poorer parts of the country raise less in council tax than richer areas, despite their greater needs.

A second reason is neglect by central government. The National Audit Office has shown that since 2010 there has been a reduction in real terms of 49% in central government funding to local authorities.

Local authority finance has been a low priority for all the political parties. Many have been content to let the council take the blame for the run-down of local services. But the blame rests squarely with central government.

It is time to press urgently for the reform of local authority finances, so that the payment of council tax is shared more fairly and so that the money is there to provide the local services we all need, use and value.

Prof Jan Pahl is chairman of the Canterbury Society and a professor of social policy at the University of Kent


  1. Oh that’s just great! Not only do we have a City Council stuffed full of people who think the victims of criminal damage should clean up the mess, or face prosecution if they don’t but now a learned professor trotting out the line that rich people should be milked to pay for graffiti to be removed.

    Let’s get one thing straight. Hand-wringers, bleating hearts and oh so cool, right on snowflakes please take note. Barbarians who paint and scribble on walls are not social artists, they are criminals. Each graffito is prima facie evidence of their guilt in the offence of criminal damage.

    There is no earthly reason why local residents, rich or poor, should have to pay a penny to get graffiti removed, If the City Council wants to get tough and find a solution, let it be via the route of nailing the criminals. A fitting punishment would be a sufficiently large fine (enough to cover the costs of graffiti removal) and a couple of days Community Service cleaning up other scribble. Our courts already have the power to do this and the deterrent message will soon get across to those tempted to commit criminal damage.

    We nail, name and shame other offenders. Why not have these criminals joined by those who think they can get away with spraying paint on our walls?

  2. Jan Pahl is quite wrong to blame central government for a lack of funds to finance the removal of graffiti in the City; the answer lies much closer to home. When the BID (Business Improvement District), came to Canterbury roughly 4 years ago and squeezed an extra levy from traders, mostly within the City walls, one of the things they claimed to improve was the cleanliness of the area – including the removal of graffiti.

    There were several jobs, previously performed by Council workers, for which BID claimed responsibility, including the removal of chewing gum, deep cleaning the streets, providing hanging baskets and the removal of graffiti, along with providing Christmas lights. I won’t dwell on this rather short list which BID used to tempt the City’s traders to vote for this extra tax which drags in approximately £500,000 each year. However, the biggest chunk of this money is gobbled up in salaries for the CEO, a couple of admin staff and 3 bowler hatted “ambassadors”.

    Despite the promises made to traders in slick presentations and glossy brochures, no real improvement can be seen for businesses in the district – even the much heralded Christmas lights are merely hired; BID owns not a single light bulb – the streets grow ever dirtier and graffiti proliferates.

    Meanwhile, the Canterbury Society proclaims the slick talking, erstwhile BID CEO, Bob Jones, as their Community Champion.

  3. I think the Canterbury Society need firstly to get their facts correct and then to actually come forward with some suggestions and constructive comment.
    They do not represent Canterbury only their Members.
    They are part of The Canterbury BID team and thus are fully aware that the BID has the funding to clean Graffiti in the BID area of central Canterbury.

  4. I think the Canterbury Society need firstly to get their facts correct and then to actually come forward with some suggestions and constructive comment.
    They do not represent Canterbury only their Members.
    They are part of The Canterbury BID team and thus are fully aware that the BID has the funding to clean Graffiti in the BID area of central Canterbury.

  5. Dear Jan, Thanks for adding to the daily dose of watered-down marxism that seems to trickle from that second rate educational establishment on the hill.
    Let me briefly try to purvey just how much tax I already pay and maybe you could disseminate the findings/money amongst it to resolve your persistent problems:
    I was educated at the King’s School Canterbury (£35K a year into a charitable foundation/ community and upkeep of the Cathedral), Durham University (insignificant to your article, but just to adage that I wouldn’t recommend higher education to my children due to the political skews that are being indoctrinated by large swathes of lecturers), I own a business in Canterbury that pays 40% business rates on the building rental currently £70k a year + Canterbury BID another £1k on top of my personal income tax and Council Tax…. Many may agree that this eye-watering amount of getting close to the millions of pounds over the years is a fair contribution to the city where you work.
    To then find that someone had graffitied the words “VOTE THE TORY SCUM OUT” over my newly decorated / privately owned community workspace when the general election occurred was disheartening to say the least. A campaign organised by Emily Thornberry (Whom resigned from her original post after shaming the working class on social media) which saw your students aggressively threaten voters at polling stations, shout and swear and conduct themselves abhorrently at hustings with Julian Brazier and eventually tip the vote to elect Rosie Duffield to MP. Rosie who has failed to upkeep her promises on financially backing the hospital (where I live(two bottle-neck roads lead to it, rendering it a write-off and needs to be demolished and relocated)) and whose only other noteworthy contribution has been to back the bigoted identity politics of the University of Kent’s Social Secretary who chose to intentionally use positive discrimination to find music acts for their Summer Ball , quoting : she felt the lineup was too “White and Male”.
    The upshot of all of this and countless other changes to this city is that I am closing my business down and moving to France (As it may be less socialist, who knows!?) after 33years of living and working in Canterbury.
    Do you think that the council removed the graffiti, when politely asked? Take a guess Jan….


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