Tuesday, 15 June 2021

14 per cent rise in parish council tax

RESIDENTS of Watlington will have to pay more for local services for the second year running.

The parish council has agreed to increase its share of council tax by almost 14 per cent from April 1 following a 15 per cent rise last year.

It means the owner of a typical band D property will now pay £105.37 annually compared with £92.70 this year, a 13.7 per cent increase, for local services.

The council says the increase will help protect these services when local authorities like Oxfordshire County Council and South Oxfordshire District Council are making cuts.

It has budgeted £12,000 for grass cutting, including the areas previously dealt with by Oxfordshire County Council, which has reduced grass cutting to once a year.

The council has put £5,000 towards maintaining a children’s centre following the county council’s decision to withdraw funding. Another £1,500 will go towards replacing bus subsidies which have also been cut by the county council.

A figure of £5,881 has been allocated for street cleaning after a grant by the district council was scrapped.

The budget also contains £3,000 for the town’s youth club.

The council has also allocated £5,000 towards its neighbourhood plan, which has yet to reach draft form. This money includes the salary of administrator Rachel Gill.

Another £5,000 will go towards upgrading the role of assistant parish clerk Chris Wiltshire who is due to retire during the year. Tony Williamson, who chairs the council’s finance committee, said the council had to look after the needs of Watlington, for example, the “important” bus services, and there was support for protecting services by raising council tax.

Councillor Rachel Huckvale said: “This is hard fought stuff. It’s sweat equity as much as it’s a precept increase.”

But Councillor Matt Reid, vice-chairman of the council, said: “We have to deliver like for like services that have been cut and we’re not doing that.”

He said the council was taking on the responsibility and costs of services from other bodies. Parish clerk Kristina Tynan said that next year the council could freeze or even reduce its share of council tax.

Councillor Roger Beattie warned that councils could be capped if they increased their tax by more than two per cent without holding a referendum.

He said he would be interested to see a breakdown of the costs of the neighbourhood plan when it was completed.

Members voted in favour of the proposed budget but Cllr Reid and Councillor Fiona Paterson abstained.

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