Back door inflation-busting increase in parts of the council tax
– Whatever you call it, they all mean one thing – an increase in the amount of money that is taken out of our purses by those who govern us and supply our services.
Northamptonshire County Council are looking to saving another £140 million over the next four years. In an effort to achieve this, the NCC has come up with a number of ideas, all of which need public consultation. The consultation takes the form of a survey entitled Asset Management Strategy Consultation. In this survey, the County Council is asking parish councils and residents’ groups for their views on a range of new ideas designed to save money and ensure the Highway Service uses its budget as efficiently as possible.
It is being suggested that Parish Councils and Residents’ Groups take on the maintenance work for some rural roads and the ideas include:
1 Reducing the width of some rural roads to a single lane with passing places, thereby restricting the type of vehicle that can use them, helping to preserve surfaces.
2 Consider taking part in maintenance work including looking after verges, hedges and clearing ditches.
3 Take ownership of assets such as electronic roadside message signs, grit bins, village signs and gateways.
Already work has begun to de-clutter roads of unnecessary signage and it is anticipated that this downsizing could be spread to possibly encompass redundant assets including some roads and bridges.
Councillor Michael Clarke, County Council Cabinet member for Transport, Highways & Environment, said: “These are extremely challenging financial times for everyone and we’re feeling it here in local government, with the county council looking to save a further £140million over the next four years. Clearly just abandoning our road network isn’t an option so we’re looking at a number of solutions to maintain the network with more limited funds. We’ve already come up with some proposals that we’re now consulting on, but it is the people of Northamptonshire who will play the biggest role in this, as we need them to give us their thoughts on what they think would work and what wouldn’t.”
The assessment of any new ideas expressed through the consultation will be weighed against other factors such as legislation and government guidance, demographic data, financial costs and environmental impacts.
Should these ideas be accepted, it would inevitably lead to large increases in the precepts put on the Annual Council Tax bill by the Parish Councils.
You will have noticed on your last Annual Council Tax Notice, that Geddington Parish Council has set a Precept, ever since March 2008. The figures may look small – what’s £4.90 extra on the rates bill (2008), or even, as this year’s bill shows, an extra £10.15? To some, it’s not a lot, to others it could be the last straw.
However, even in Government circles, this amount of local tax is being questioned. In a recent article in the Daily Telegraph, it said: “A detailed breakdown of council tax bills, published by the Government, shows that the charge imposed by parish councils, rose by 5% – nearly twice the consumer price index inflation rate of 2.7%. Parish councils said they needed the extra money to pay for local services cut by bigger authorities. Ministers have been appalled by the increases and said they were considering capping parish council charges in the same way as council tax bills. Any council which wants to increase council tax bills by more than 2% has to put that decision to a referendum. Brandon Lewis, the local government minister, said: “We are considering extending the council tax referendum provisions to parish councils, which we have the power to do in law.”
Parish Council Chairman Ken Barber comments: “This is a very interesting document which, if passed, will give parish councillors more powers – but at a cost. It will be very interesting to see if my fellow councillors think the cost worthwhile.”
Geddington Parish Councillor John Padwick, comments: “Just as Parish Councils are suffering funding cuts, meaning that many villages are having to increase precepts on their residents, a proposal comes from the County Council that the PCs take on road maintenance. Does this mean that funding might be forthcoming in order to tackle this? Parish Councils are already stretched as it is, relying on the voluntary efforts of Councillors and others in the villages, without having to fill in potholes and maintain roads. Seems like we’re going back to the days of the turnpikes. Perhaps we should set up tollbooths on the A43? County Council redundant employees might staff them!” He continues: “I would say that it’s clearly essential the Parish Council responds firmly to this proposal, but also that individual villagers use the ‘surveymonkey’ web link to respond and also directly email Jim Harker, as our County Councillor.” (See Parish Council for contact details) In addition, John would like to make it clear that his comments are personal and should not be taken as the Parish Council’s view.
John is also concerned that those residents without access to a computer, or not linked in with virtual/social networks, will be unable to take part, or even know about this survey. If you know of any such residents who would be interested in completing the survey, please print one for them.
The following is the link:
NB The next Parish Council meeting will take place on Monday 11th November at 7.30pm in the Village Hall Lounge.