Mark Rowley, Parish Council Chair recently wrote via Facebook that several projects had been suggested for 2017/18 and would require precept (Parish Council Tax) funding. These were as follows:
An extension to the Village Hall car park, upgrade to the path connecting the Village Hall to the tennis and bowls clubs, and improving the entrance to Newton, to make it safer. This provoked a fierce debate with one resident indicating that the precept element of Council Tax bills would rise by 222% as a result. The balance of opinion was that:
The extension to the Village Hall car park was unnecessary, as overcrowding only happened very occasionally when significant Bowling and Cricket events coincided. The path to the Bowling club was better than many paths throughout the Borough and that the only tripping hazard was the grass growing between slabs.
While there did appear to be some support for the improvement of the sight lines at the Newton junction, the work was considered to be appropriate to the Highways Agency and therefore covered by Council Tax already paid to the County Council. Significantly Boughton Estates, had previously stated that they would be carrying out work to move the banks and hedge and to re-fence.
The Facebook debate also highlighted that the Parish Council account reflected a balance in excess of £20K without any major spend for the rest of this year.
At the recent Parish Council meeting it was stated by a member of the public that reserves at April 2017 would be 3 times the average annual Parish Council spend for the past two years and therefore, with no tested requirement in place for any projects, asked whether any increase in precept was required. Mark Rowley, Parish Council Chair, whilst conceding there were no costed projects approved for action, stated that the reasons for increasing precept included projects he considered would be expensive, e.g. the Newton junction at £30K to £35K, the preference to increase funds was over a period rather than hit residents with a large one off charge.
Geddington.net understands that the precept can only be used to raise funds for specifically researched and costed projects and not to build reserves.
He (Mark Rowley) went on to say that it was rumored that in future precept increases would be limited to 2% which would essentially freeze the Parish Council budget at current levels.
Further public comment questioned the logic of raising funds for possible spend on untested projects, emphasising that the need for no project had yet been proved, accurate costs for none had been established and most importantly the level of residents support for none had been established.
The Chair, Mark Rowley conceded that none of the projects had been subjected to investigation, evaluation or approval, and that this would need to be done before proceeding with projects. He added however that there had been a previous claim from tripping on the path to the Bowls Club which had not been pursued. He also added that Boughton Estates had changed their mind about carrying out the work to the Newton junction. He did not however elaborate on the reason for the commitment withdrawal.
A discussion followed on possible other needs which had been highlighted in the Parish Plan, including traffic calming measures and verge maintenance etc. After the lengthy discussion no vote was taken, no new information made available and no agreed actions relative to the final decision on the 2016/17 precept due to be decided at the January 2017 Parish Council meeting.