Shocked at parish increase

When our Council Tax bill dropped through the letter box last week I thought I’ll just pop it in the cupboard with the rest of the paperwork, but glancing at the amount payable for the forthcoming year on our Band B property, I noticed an increase of £2 per month. I, like many others, assumed that if the Council Tax had been frozen this year there would not be any increases.

On further scrutiny under the heading Eastfield Parish Council I observed the massive 111.2% percentage change to the amount charged by them. The accompanying “Your Council Tax explained” leaflet indicated that the average increase by Parish Councils was 5.5% and a property in Band D for example would incur an increase of 94p per month.

I then phoned the Local Taxation Section for an explanation of this exorbitant percentage charge levied by Eastfield Parish Council. They could not offer me an explanation and said they also were quite surprised by the increase.

They did tell me however that Parish Councils have their own fundraising powers and that these precepts were not subject to being frozen or capped in any way.

I emailed the clerk of Eastfield Parish Council, Steven Simpson, who replied with some of the breakdown on how the precepts were spent. Mr Simpson copied the communication to Cllr Brian Simpson who in turn kindly furnished me with some facts and figures that perhaps I ought to have known. The breakdown was as follows:

l Providing funding for the Westway Boxing Club

l Partial funding for the retention of the Dell Rangers

l Assistance with library expenses

l Contribution to Cayton Bonfire

l Bus shelters, Boxing day buses

l Street lighting and refuse collection

l The pop-in lunch club and many more facilities to enhance the Eastfield community.

Cllr Simpson went on to say that as chairman of the Parish Council he had championed or, in his words, kick-started many of these projects and also that the precepts funded the Voice Your Choice event where the residents of Eastfield had the final say on where the money was spent.

He also told me that at just 68p per week the residents of Eastfield were receiving excellent value and now I am in possession of these facts and figures to a large extent I agree.

Cllr Simpson also albeit somewhat patronisingly said that as a pensioner I was, in April, about to receive a decent pension increase.

So what’s my beef then, you might say. I am not averse to the way in which the precept money is being spent but like everyone else I am subject to fuel, energy and food increases and if there is anything left over from the pension increase then surely it is my decision what to spend it on. Doesn’t seem too fair, either, on working people whose pay has been frozen.

In conclusion I would like to see the fundraising powers of the Parish Council frozen along with all the other elements of the Council Tax and if this is not possible to at least be capped in line with inflation, otherwise this wide open system could be subject to potential abuse in future years.

Cllr Simpson said that the precept charges are unlikely to increase much above 0% next year but that remains to be seen.

Clive Hague

Harvest Way, Eastfield