Councils charge for new duties

A HAND-OVER of county council services to towns and parishes has resulted in budget precepts being raised by as much as 50 per cent – but it will still only add a few pence a week onto your council tax bill.

Alnwick Town Council has seen one of the larger increases to its budget, agreeing on Thursday to precept for an additional £15,000 to pay for the pending transfer of civic planting, bus shelters and play areas on April 1.

It brings the total town council figure for 2012/13 to £138,500, an increase of around 12 per cent on the previous year.

However, the actual cost for the town council’s portion of council tax on an average Band D household will work out at £49.27 a year – a rise of £4.59, or equivalent to less than 9p a week.

Giving his report to the town, clerk Bill Batey said: “The 2012/13 proposals amount to £138,500, an increase of £15,097 representing a 12.2 per cent increase.

Attention is drawn to the fact that the council is budgeting for more than £16,000 of additional costs in 2012/13 which arise from the county council transferring services to the town council.

“The Finance and Policy Committee did discuss reducing the increase in precept by using some of the council’s reserves, but the majority felt that reserves should not be used for this purpose particularly as reserves may be needed as more assets are taken over from the county council.”

Mayor Alan Symmonds said: “I think the decision we have come to has been fair and responsible and represents good value for money for the people of Alnwick.”

At Rothbury Parish Council last week, it was agreed to raise the precept by 52 per cent because of increased costs from the county council as well as essential works which need doing in the village.

Chairman Coun Jeff Reynalds said: “We have generally increased it by three per cent in the past but this year there are new financial liabilities.

“We are now going to be charged a share of election costs.

“We have got cluster meetings to pay for which we didn’t have before as the county council is no longer providing help for groups of parish councils.

“We have also got extra maintenance works. The church clock is 115 years old and deserves to be looked after.

“The churchyard trees are now our responsibility.”

The council has budgeted £2,000 for tree maintenance, some of which needs to be urgently undertaken, as well as £1,000 to repairs village greens damaged by motorists parking their vehicles.

A total of £1,000 has been put in to repair the clock.

The rise of £7,154 will take the council’s precept up to £20,842, which equates to 8.5p per household per week.

Last month, Amble Town Council agreed to make a £6,500 allowance for additional services it will inherit from the county council, taking its precept for 2012/13 from just over £99,000 to more than £107,000.

However, members reduced the hike by finding £3,000-worth of savings.