Monday, 21 March 2011

Anger at Parish Council's 14% Council Tax Hike

Local residents of Nettleham have been reacting angrily to the arrival on their doormats of Council Tax bills showing 14% increases in the portion of Council Tax taken by Nettleham Parish Council. One local resident described their reaction as 'astonishment'.

Whilst other local authorities that cover Nettleham, such as the Police Authority, and the Conservative-controlled County and District Councils, have managed to freeze their portions of the Council Tax.

Another local resident enquired:
"I wonder if you could explain to me why Nettleham have a 14% increase in the Parish precept this year after an 8% rise last year? It does seem an unusual increase, considering the austerity measures being taken by district Council."

The 8% rise last year was not an increase in the amount of precept requested from by the Parish Council (full explanation here). In the Spring 2011 edition of the Nettleham News the Parish Clerk, explains that:
"This represents an increase of less than £9 per annum per household (1,570 households). This increase is due to the loan repayments for the re-roofing of the village hall, the removal by West Lindsey District Council of the ‘per capita’ subsidy (£3,021), Parish Elections costs (£2,000) due to WLDC decision to implement Whole Council Elections in 2011 (despite the fact that Nettleham held parish elections in 2010), the Parish Council’s decision to set aside an additional allocation to project reserves of £3,500 and necessary inflationary increases on utilities."
This explanation, whilst not inaccurate, does attempt to muddy the waters. Most people care about the percentage increase in the bill not the specifics in cash terms and a decision was taken to omit the '14%' figure from the release to the Nettleham News. Secondly, the per capita subsidy had been introduced many years ago to ameliorate the fact that Gainsborough did not have it's own Town Council. This changed in 1993 when Gainsborough Town Council was established. There is broad cross-party agreement that at that time the per capita subsidy had come to the end of it's natural life and should have finished. Thirdly, since 2005 the Parish Council has precepted £2,800 for Election costs, yet has only spent £404 on election costs in the same period. The £2,000 put into the 2011/12 budget could have been taken from reserves and the £2,396 which has been accumulated has gone into the general reserves. At the start of February the Parish Council's General Reserve stood at £29,934 and had £74,935 in Capital Reserves.

A significant number of incumbent councillors voted, earlier in the year, to approach West Lindsey District Council and extend their term of office to five years. Whilst other councillors took the principled view that election should not be avoided.

Nettleham Parish Councillor, Giles McNeill said:
"I understand local people's anger. I am proud to say that I opposed the budget for 2011/12. I also put forward my own proposals which would have achieved all the aims my colleagues identified - such as re-roofing the Village Hall - and would have led to a slight reduction in your Council Tax bill.

"Some of my colleagues it seems just don't get finance; in the 2010/11 budget I managed to ensure that we didn't put tax up any more to cover the cost of the burial ground and at our last meeting I was vindicated as the figures showed for the year to date the site had generated income.

"I have long felt that a number of my colleagues are profligate with public money and have a 'the village can afford it attitude'.  But I think of the little old lady, living on her state pension, alone, having to find extra money, I know that is wrong.  Many residents would no-doubt be shocked to learn that the Parish Council often has a surplus at the end of the year. This year a surplus of £5,600 (5.5%) is expected.

"I hope that if there is a contested Parish Council election this year people will take it seriously and consider what they really want from the people who serve the local community on Nettleham Parish Council."


Anonymous said...

Yes 14% this year 8% last year - and I seem to remember it was even higher the year before, but got lost in the kerfuffle surrounding the attempted increase in the Police Precept of 75% odd.

Really it doesn't matter what the ( good ) reasons are for these increases.

The point is that you live within a budget, and that budget shouldn't allow you to go and demand extra money from people who in some cases can't pay it and in other cases don't see why they should.

If the other authorities can keep the costs down, why can't the Parish Council? Even the Police who were preaching doom and gloom when they "only" got 26% two years ago have managed it.

I haven't got the figures to hand, but I think the year on year on year increases demanded by the Parish Council probably outstrip those of the Police Authority.


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