24/02/2014 1 Comment
At this time of year Councils up and down the land, large and small are setting their budgets and announcing the Council tax rises, freezes or cuts. At Suffolk County Council we have delivered on the 1st year of our 4 year pledge to freeze Council tax, this makes 4 years on the trot and during the 4 hour budget debate the week before last, I spoke of the savings and real money that is being saved as the Council finds new ways of working to absorb inflation and the significant cuts in government grant being.
The same good news can be had at Forest Heath District Council which for the 3rd year running will hopefully on Wednesday vote through a 0% Council Tax rise. No Council has done more in the last 3 years to reshape and find different ways of working than FHDC as it has merged its back office function with St. Edmundsbury Borough Council. I am frankly proud of both Conservative controlled councils and their Conservative Councillors in the way in which they have grasped the nettle of falling government grant, inflationary pressures and yet have still looked to themselves rather than the residents to pay more Council tax.
Contrast this with the village in which I live, on Friday ahead of Forest Heath’s full Council meeting on Wednesday, setting its annual Budget and thus Council tax; I received the final list of the Parish and Town Council precepts. And there top of the precept hikes just behind Brandon Town Council and Gazeley Parish Council, is Lakenheath with a massive increase of 19.78%. Now whilst on say a band D property this is £18.17 per annum so not a great deal in actual money terms but why the massive percentage hike, just what does Lakenheath Parish Council spend it’s ever growing annual budget, this year a whopping £135,061.96, on?
This massive precept increase now gives Lakenheath the honour of being the most expensive precept in the whole of Forest heath at £110.01 on a Band D property contrast this with say another village in my Row Heath Division, Beck Row where this year’s Band D precept is £37.32 per property up just 1.32% from last years. So just what is Beck Row Parish Council doing so right, that Lakenheath can’t?
Now of course we can’t yet examine the thinking behind this just yet as the minutes of the January Parish Council meeting are yet to be put up on their web site, nor indeed is there a link to their last audited set of accounts to 31st March 2013 but hopefully the January minutes will include the budget report on which they based their decision and equally hopefully we’ll also be able to see just what the reserves position is.
I look forward to blogging about both when we can see the information.
I, for one, have long argued that the referendum caps which applies to County and District/Borough Councils should apply to Parish Councils, no council more than my home village one makes my point.