Lakenheath – The most expensive Parish in Forest Heath

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.

About askcolinnoble
I'm a Conservative politician-lite, I dabble a bit in Party Politics with my main focus of working hard and being a strong voice for my community making sure local government delivers quality services and fellow residents get value for money for their hard earned money they pay in Council tax | Where this Gravatar appears and I am expressing my views or liking something I do so in a personal capacity and does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of Suffolk County Council, Forest Heath District Council, the Conservative Party or come to think of it anyone else | But having said the above at an election time and to stay legal anything I write is promoted by Kerry Buist on behalf of Colin Noble, both at West Suffolk Conservative Association, Unit 8, Swan Lane Business Park, Exning, Newmarket, Suffolk CB8 7FN

One Response to Lakenheath – The most expensive Parish in Forest Heath

  1. Hermion Brown says:

    I think that you may have forgotten that both County Council and District Councils have passed on some of their previously held responsibilities to the parishes so that “their” part of the Council Tax bills could remain at zero. Parish would not have to increase the precept by so much had they not. For example grass cutting particularly on the bridle ways and bye ways. Services that the parishioners still want and have to be supplied.

    It is only to be expected that savings at Forest Heath have been made due to the Merger with St Edmundsbury District Council under shared services. Sadly as a result however, jobs were cut, redundancies made and staff out of work. But that has reduced the cost to the Council tax payer. District receive a central Government rebate which in the past they have given part to Parishes. They have now decided that this rebate they receive will no longer be passed on in the future phasing it out over the next 4 years. This has to be recovered somewhere!

    This year for the first time ever, Parishes have had to allow for the cost of any possible elections that take place – previously, this was funded by the District Councils (we have had to allow this possible cost).

    Finally, Lakenheath has a very high number of rental properties (currently approx. 24% of homes)occupied by members of the USAF where no direct payment is received as they are exempt from paying Council Tax. The US government does give as a result a payment to Central Government which is “retained” by HM Treasury but part is made available to District Councils. At Parish level none is received. This means that the Parish element of the Council tax bill is shared by 76% of homes in the Village not spread between 100% as in some other Villages or towns. This is the main reason why our charge appears higher than some.

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