Peter Heaton: Parish Council empire building

TPA supporter Peter Heaton writes today about how his Parish Council is increasing the parish precept tax as a means of increasing its political 'empire', seeking to do more at a greater cost to the taxpayer.  Peter, however, points out that his Parish Council are charging him to so they can do things the district council already does.  Clearly local government wants taxpayers to pay twice for a service:


Pheaton_2Just when it seems hikes in council tax are at last beginning to come under some control, we have cases around the country of parish councils imposing enormous increases. One in Northamptonshire tried to get away with more than 80%.


My local one, in Milton Keynes is Shenley Brook End Parish Council. It wants to increase its share of council tax by more than 10 times inflation (to £43.50 per Band D household – an increase of £9.50 per household per annum).


Now an extra £9.50 a year may not sound like a lot of money. But we don’t have any choice about paying it, and didn’t have any voice in how that figure was arrived at – or indeed whether we think we need a parish council at all, or if we think we do, what we would like it to do and at what cost.

To quote their newsletter, “This is an expanding parish, and we must take account of a rising population that will make greater demands on our resources”. But hang on; if more people are moving in, more people pay council tax.


They also say, “Compared with other parishes in the borough, we are still far below the biggest spending parishes, and well below the average.” So what. That’s a justification for a massive increase in spending?


If some of them decide to spend more, the average will go up – then they’ll all be able to justify spending more if they are below average. It’s easy when it’s not your money.


And they imply that they are so good, they have been able to keep the increase down by taking £39,200 from their reserves. That’ll be £39,200 of our money then.


Hardly anyone votes for these empire builders. They might say we’re doing this, that and the other, but they need to get real. What planet are these people on?


They are operating on the old local government adage of needing to spend more and more all the time, thinking up things to do which often are being done adequately already.


So they have decided to pay for extra community support officers (even though we already pay for those through our police element of the council tax), extra youth workers (we pay for them already through council tax) and a parish warden to patrol for litter and graffiti (we already pay for that through council tax too).


Now they’ve got themselves offices, staff and a van. What next? Some assistant chief executives? Voting to put their expenses up? Or a health and safety officer to oil the wheels of the £400,000 gravy train they are running at our expense.


If you want to make your voice heard on the local tax situation in your area, email a short 300-400 article to me and we'll look to publish it on the blog.

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