Agenda item

Town/Parish Council Localised Council Tax Grant (Agenda item 11)

Report of Ellen Jolly, Executive Member for Finance & Democratic Services.

Minutes:

The Executive Member for Finance & Democratic Services asked if the report title could be changed to Local Council Tax Support Grant.

 

Government changes to the council tax benefit scheme that led to the introduction of the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme (LCTRS) in April 2013 had resulted in a general reduction in the tax base across the district.  This impact on the tax base had been recognised and a government grant had been passed on to partly compensate for this change, with an element of this grant (£305,000 for 2013-14) allocated to town and parish councils to offset their precepts. There was no legal obligation to pass this grant on.

 

Members were being asked to re-consider the amount passed on for future years bearing in mind the level of funding cuts and budget saving requirements that Breckland Council faced in forthcoming years.  It was noted that out of the 92 town/parish councils that had received grants, 31 (35%) reduced their precept request but the remainder of the town/parish councils (65%) took the grant payment in addition to their precept.  If Members were mindful to remove or reduce the grant it was likely that these parish/town councils would have to increase their precept request to compensate.

 

The Executive Member for Internal Services agreed that the report heading should be changed as it was misleading.   He reminded Members that Cabinet had previously agreed that the grant would be paid for one year only and Breckland Council was just one of a few Councils that had made such a contribution.  Councillor Duigan said that he had explained to Dereham Town Council that the grant would be for one year only and this had been the reason why it had increased its precept.

 

Councillor North stated that Attleborough Town Council had reduced its precept on receipt of the grant but was asking for support again this year.  She asked if there could be a further option for Members to consider such as a small subsidy to be granted to the 31 parish/town councils that had reduced their precepts.

 

Councillor Joel mentioned the possibility of precepts being capped and asked if parishes/towns would be stuck with 2% in their precepts if the Parliamentary Bill came into effect before January 2014.  The Chairman was not aware of any such legalisation and said that it was very unlikely that a cap would be introduced.  He explained that it was very difficult to pass anything across as it was unknown if any funding would be available.  He highlighted the fact that all the town councils and six of the parishes charged more for its council tax than Breckland.  Further to this, he was unaware of any publicity in relation to parishes/towns making efficiencies unlike the District Councils and Norfolk County Council.

 

Councillor Duigan drew attention to South Norfolk Council’s ‘Band D’ council tax amount which was a great deal more compared to Breckland’s.

 

The Executive Member for Assets & Strategic Development said that parishes had stated that they would be in financial difficulty if a grant was not received and he asked where the figures came from in options B, C, D and E under paragraph 2 of the report as he did not know how the Cabinet could make a decision based on these figures.

 

The Executive Member for Communications, Organisational Development & Performance was a great advocate for localism and local democracy and felt that towns and parishes had to start making savings.  Swaffham, of which he was a Ward Member, had taken on services such as street lighting, toilets and play areas which had been what the people of Swaffham had wanted and had accordingly been reflected in the precept. 

 

Councillor Bambridge stated that parishes and towns were informed last year that this would be a one-off grant and should be making decisions on setting their precepts without such grant provisions.  He felt; however, that any grant that Breckland received should be shared out and he would be happy to pass that message on.

 

Options

 

a)     Continue grant at current levels;

b)     Reduce 60% of grant in line with forecast Revenue Support Grant reductions (i.e. 25.1%);

c)      Reduce grant by 11%, meaning no Town Council/Parish Council would need to increase its precept by more than 2% to compensate;

d)     Remove the grant completely;

e)     Phase the grant out over 2 years (or a number of years).

 

Reasons

 

To inform the budget setting process for 2014-15 and future years.

 

RESOLVED that the Town and Parish share of the Local Council Tax Support Grant be removed completely.

Supporting documents: