Friday, 18 August 2017

£13.70 a year tax rise to fund village improvements

COUNCIL taxpayers in Sonning Common will pay 25 per cent more for services provided by the parish council.

COUNCIL taxpayers in Sonning Common will pay 25 per cent more for services provided by the parish council.

The rise means a typical band D householder will pay an extra £13.70 a year from April 1.

The council says it will use the extra £16,500 in revenue to fund improvements in the parish. Ongoing projects include a new roller park and the creation of a neighbourhood plan.

Councillor John Stoves, chairman of the finance committee, said: “This is what we feel we need to do to move the council forward with things we would like to do.”

A report showed that the precept in Sonning Common was lower than in seven other large villages in South Oxfordshire last year and Cllr Stoves said: “We’re still going to be lower than any of these councils before they put up their precepts.”

But Councillor Tom Fort said: “I think the clerk should be prepared to take some flak over this. It’s a 25 per cent increase, which in this climate is a big jump.”

Parish clerk Philip Collings pointed out the village’s precept was a very small proportion of the overall council tax bill and said previous rises had enabled the council to do things such as buy a snow plough.

“There’s virtually nothing you can buy these days for the extra 26p a week we’re putting on the bill,” he said.

Councillor Colin Reynolds said: “This isn’t money that’s going to be squandered, it’s money already invested in the parish’s future, such as the roller park and youth club.

“We will make sure it’s put back into the parish for everyone to benefit from.”

Councillor Leigh Rawlins said he had noticed improvements in other parishes as a result of investing council tax revenues.

Councillor Douglas Kedge, who chairs the council, said the precept had been very low.

“The last thing the previous administration did for the village was reduce it to the bare minimum,” he said. “We’re trying to put history right.

“We have a different philosophy and want to do things for the village. My feedback is that people approve of what we’re doing. We may receive complaints but once they know the reasons for the rise, the huge majority will see we have done a good job and need the money. There might be one or two people who still don’t like it but there always is.”

The council also expects to receive £13,159 in grants from Oxfordshire County Council and South Oxfordshire District Council and from hiring out amenities such as allotments to residents.

It plans to spend £73,000 on maintaining cleanliness and tidiness in the village and facilities and projects such as Club SC, which has applied for an increase in grants to avoid closure.

Cllr Reynolds, who is on the youth club’s management committee, is proposing a grant of £4,500 to £6,000 in the first year, £6,000 to £8,000 in the second and £8,000 to £10,000 in the third.

It has also been suggested that the Young Authors competition, which was organised by Councillor Dirk Jones but scrapped in 2011 due to lack of prize money, should be revived.

The council agreed that 20 per cent of the council’s revenue should be used to begin a reserve fund.

Last month, neighbouring Peppard Parish Council voted to impose a 20 per cent rise in its tax demand.

Meanwhile, Sonning Common Parish Council wants to have its own logo.

Councillors are considering launching a competition for residents and students to submit designs. It has two Amazon gift vouchers that could be used as prizes.

Councillor Gail Noble said it was a good idea but she didn’t want to spend too much money on it.

Councillor Carole Lewis agreed said: “We must have a lot of talent in graphic design in the village.”

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