Saturday, 19 October 2013

When Is A Council Tax Freeze Not A Council Tax Freeze?

In 2012 the Coalition Government announced plans to remove Council Tax Benefit (for people claiming Disability Benefit or Jobseeker's Allowance etc), instructing all local authorities in England and Wales to put in place their own scheme of support by April 2013 [ref].

As an interim measure the Department of Communities and Local Government offered a one-off grant to soften the impact on parish budgets for the past financial year and give sufficient time to plan for these budgetary changes.

Within West Berkshire the decision was made not to put an alternative scheme in place, and now parishes will be expected to make up the shortfall of more than £250,000. This will mean either an increase in the Parish Precept, a reduction in expenditure, or a combination of the two.

Yet the sums currently controlled by parish councils are so small (typically less than £10,000) that few services are offered and this effectively leaves only one option - to raise the precept!

And because of the uneven distribution of people who were previously eligible for this type of support it also means that the more deprived areas within the district will be expected to shoulder a larger share of the burden.

For the five parishes in Aldermaston Ward the projected increases will be:
  • Aldermaston Parish - 6.01%
  • Brimpton Parish - 3.06%
  • Midgham Parish - 2.47%
  • Wasing Parish - 0%
  • Woolhampton Parish - 3.31%

Aldermaston Ward campaigner James Spackman said,
"Village communities are the backbone of rural West Berkshire, but this is financial sleight-of-hand and another slap in the face to ordinary people as complacent Conservatives try to pass the buck once more. Residents don't want to create an invisible pile of financial reserves by cutting basic village services back to the bone, we want action to make a fairer society!"

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