Posted by: westlancashirerecord | October 28, 2016

Parish Council Tax Referendums

This is a “need to know” item for all local parish council tax payers, from LALC lalc.

It states “Sent to your councillors, it is a template letter which “they” may wish to adapt for our councils and for sending to our MP. At the recent NALC AGM there was an overwhelming vote to oppose the government suggestion which in effect caps parish council precepts and would involve extra expense at a time when Principal Authorities are reducing services and devolving them to town and parish councils”.

Dear [insert name of MP],Member of Parliament for [insert name of constituency],
I am writing on behalf of [insert name of Council/county association]about the Local Government Finance Settlement Technical Consultation, in particular proposals by the government to extend council tax referendum principles to local parish and town councils. Our council/county association very much welcomed the government’s decisions over the last few years not to introduce referenda principles for local councils. apc

Local councils account for just 1.7% of the £26 billion raised through council tax in England and have demonstrated fiscal responsibility in recent years with overall increases in precepts going down, rising this year by just 6 pence per week on average as a result of local councils taking on services from principal councils and funding not being passed on to them. We are therefore extremely concerned indeed about the proposals set out in the consultation, proposals which will be greeted by England’s 80,000 local councillors as a real blow to local democracy and their democratic role to make decisions on spending priorities and work with the local community to identify and meet local needs. bpc

Right across the country local councils are doing a brilliant job improving their areas; whether it’s by building community resilience, increasing house building through neighbourhood planning, providing local transport solutions, supporting the local economy and businesses, organising community events and festivals, helping meet social care needs and making places dementia friendly or giving grants to help local groups and organisations – all this and often more for an average cost to residents of just over a pound a week. [insert name of Council] plays a vital role in supporting the community through [insert examples of how your Council is meeting local needs and adding value in your community, how you are working together with others in support of devolution etc]. [insert name of Council] takes its financial management responsibilities seriously and fully recognises the importance of reducing costs and making efficiency savings so that we can continue to deliver and improve services, at the same time as minimising the tax burden. [or] [insert localised examples from Councils in the county association area] bicklogo

Unlike principal councils, local councils do not receive grant funding from central government or a share of business rates and are primarily financed through the parish precept. Therefore we really do believe these proposals amount to a centralist sledgehammer to crack a nut, at a time when the government should be supporting not undermining councillors and their important role improving communities. Introducing these new rules will also seriously damage the ability of smaller communities to help themselves and very much threatens the government’s previous commitments to localism and devolution. halsall_church_logo

It is vital local councils continue to have the freedom and flexibility to raise the resources they need to invest in local services, especially at a time when they are taking on services and assets from principal councils, often much valued services which would otherwise cease completely and which communities want to see continue. So given their important and growing role, local councils should be celebrated and supported, not hindered by central government.

The town and parish sector has taken up the challenge of delivering the localism agenda and the National Association of Local Councils is currently developing a devolution toolkit along with other resources which supports government policy on empowering local communities.

Ultimately we want more people to get involved in local decision making and to be engaged within the communities they live – to be actively involved in local elections. Effectively ‘capping’parish precepts and forcing councils to hold costly referenda sends out a negative message about the first tier of local government which is meant to underpin the localism agenda. In addition we are concerned about the unintended impact putting into question whether local councils would be able to take on a greater role including taking over services from principal authorities or taking advantage of community rights legislation such as neighbourhood planning. downlogo

There is also the significant public cost that could arise from referendums, which in certain circumstances could be triggered by changes outside of our control such as increases in business rates or national insurance. In summary these proposals will damage communities and local services as well as undermine local democracy and the role of local councillors and we would request you support us and also write to the local government minister Marcus Jones MP to oppose these proposals.
Yours sincerely
[Council/county association chairman]

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