AS I write on April 12, nominations have just opened to elect MEPs, our representatives to the next toothless 'Euro-parliament' of the undemocratic EU, who will probably never take their seats but will cost us millions of pounds in election expenses.

Furthermore, I bet that not one reader in ten of The Westmorland Gazette can name any of their Euro-MPs who have represented them for the past several years and cost about £500,000 per annum each in salary and expenses. As the saying goes; 'If you can name your Euro-MP you probably are that MP!'

If the electoral expense and confusion of the EU is not bad enough, we are about to have thrust upon us another, admittedly lesser, electoral hotch-potch in the South Lakeland District Council elections of May 2.

In his 'Local Democracy' item in the Gazette of April 11 ('Countdown to polling day in South Lakes') Ellis Butcher makes a brave attempt to explain to us 'who, how, where and why' we can place our votes.

However, Mr. Butcher tells only half of the tale; that appertaining only to this year.

What virtually nobody in SLDC-land has yet twigged is that we now have to go through the full election rigmarole every year, electing councillors one at a time to the multi-councillor 'super-wards' introduced last year.

The one 'fallow year' in the four-year cycle to elect three councillors is taken up by county council elections, usually one of the same people who is both county and district councillor (on over twice the allowance/expenses etc!).

This involves all the administration, the printing of forms, disruption of schools, the hiring of polling stations and officers' time to say nothing of all of the party-political bumph we will get through our letterboxes each and every April.

Worse still, in the six weeks from the Notice of Election to the actual polling day all councillors, not just those up for re-election, declare 'purdah' and do no work other than party political work to get themselves or their mates re-elected.

Of course, they all still take their full allowance and expenses over this six weeks! So for 12 per cent of each and every year 50 SLDC councillors will be collecting the full allowance, an allowance which they voted to increase by two per cent last Christmas, and South Lakeland will be in a state of suspended political animation while they all play politics!

As the Chief Executive of the Taxpayers Alliance points out (Gazette, April 11, 'Calls for town hall bosses to take cuts') the average council tax bill has gone up by more than £900 per annum over the last 20 years. Are we getting good value, or are we simply indulging the political parties in their duplication of district and county duties and, of course, double allowances and expenses?

Has the time come to get behind the likes of Cllr Graham Vincent in his brave stand as an Independent against the 'party machines' or even to form a local Taxpayers' Alliance party to fight for cost-saving reform as in many other districts?

Ian Kell