Posted by: westlancashirerecord | November 18, 2016

Local Income Raised By Council Tax And Precept

The major precepting authorities are West Lancashire Borough Council, Lancashire County Council, Lancashire Fire Authority, and the Police and Crime Commissioner for Lancashire.

…not to mention parishes. The income raised for all of them is shown here taxation-001 [click to read] and it will come as no surprise they are all taking more of our cash. We who are parished often forget that extra charge that we might think is all necessary to improve and provide the amenities we value, but often it is not. Charging an annual parish precept is habit forming. When did you last hear of a parish council that declared it would not charge the precept because it had ample funds in reserve?

In my parish we have had ongoing conflict with the council. We fought long and hard in the face of council opposition to keep our local police service and we succeeded. And we have tried to convert the neglected Town Greens into areas of natural beauty for the benefit of local residents and visitors. The support we apparently received from the borough council that owns the land came to nothing. The support we thought we received from the parish council came to nothing. Two years ago the borough council stated in writing “I can confirm that the areas you refer to in Town Green Lane can be considered for funding from the Environmental Improvements Budget”. And there was reference to funding of flower beds and other such decorative floral arrangements available to those properties, ie Town Green itself. As we said “We much prefer flower beds to a permanent “white van bed” fronting Town Green”.

We then ascertained the parish council itself could apply for borough council funding. And the Housing Director himself told me in November 2014 in a somewhat contradictory reply “The Leader of the Council has also been in contact with me and indicated that Members may be prepared to consider some of the money available within the Council’s Environmental/Town and Villages Centre Improvement Fund and this matter will be pursued in conjunction with seeing whether the scheme could be enhanced, utilising other monies that could be available”. Some APC councillors, Jones and Grant, offered verbal support for a scheme that would stop any vehicles parking on the Green by including flower beds, shrubs, and some fencing posts with chain links attached. Borough leader Wally told me “As advised by Mr Livermore, the matter is under consideration but at an early stage and at this point in time it would be inappropriate for me to make further comment”. Inappropriateness becomes him!

The Housing Director’s response led me to state “Thank you for this reply, so full of contradictions, that having read it my mind was drawn back a long time to Lewis Carroll and the Mad-Hatter nonsense that “If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?” Or perhaps you don’t see”.

We saw little more activity. A low fence now stops vehicles encroaching onto the grass. Maintenance of the grass is minimal. We do have a splendid growth of weeds that intermingle with and decorate and eventually compete with the height of the grass. The parish minutes for June 2016 refer to a public question about “the possible planting scheme for the housing land on Town Green Lane” and the response from the chairman “In respect of the housing land on Town Green Lane, the low-level fencing scheme had been completed but an update would be requested from the Director of Housing in respect of any proposed planting scheme”.

In August 2016 the minutes state “A local resident gave his views on…shrubs/planting/maintenance of the Borough Council Housing land on Town Green Lane”. The chairman said “With regards to the Borough Council Housing Land, the residents of Aughton already paid an additional amount by way of the Parish Precept. This item should be a budget item for the Borough Council. Skelmersdale and Ormskirk residents (non-parished areas) did not pay for their landscaping. By carrying out this request, Aughton residents would be paying twice (double rating)”.

The subject was raised again on 14 November. “The Town Greens are an eyesore, grass and weeds knee high, they’ve been given the last cut of the season, will the parish council pay for one cut so as to at least make them presentable for the winter, and might the same apply to the small triangle of land at the Winifred Lane corner?” and the reply was predictable.

But what does bother some residents are the double standards set by the Aughton Parish Council. In previous years, and in 2016 too, it has a “Best Garden Competition” for which prizes are awarded to private homeowners and it “was AGREED to take all expenses from the ‘Free Resource’ LGA Section 137. NOTED”. A local authority may, subject to the provisions of this section, incur expenditure which in their opinion is in the interests of, and will bring direct benefit to, their area or any part of it or all or some of its inhabitants”. So why fund private homeowners prizes from our precept for their gardens while not funding improvements to the scruffy deadbeat neglected Town Greens to benefit a whole community?


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