(is that a ridiculous headline or what?)
News comes through that the Parish Council are to increase the precept by 22%. This was signed off at the last Council meeting (no minutes yet, so I don't know whether it was done in private session).
To pay for the coming of the Tour de France to the town. A bicycle race that is coming anyway. And which will massively benefit everyone from local hotels to farmers who are suddenly turning their fields over to campsites,. Now, it's not clear from the Gazette story what exactly the PC are planning to do with this money (big screens to watch on TV something that is, you know, happening live in the town?), but I bet the bandstand will be involved somehow. There's also an unexplained increase in support for the Christmas Lights, from £2,000 to £16,000. These were the lights that were meant to save the town money because of being LED, of course--'as little as £50 a year' was the figure quoted when the gorgeous (and now absent) councillor for South Ilkley made the proposal.
Now, this is only an extra £5 per head on the average property (not that there are many of those in the town). But it's been done without consultation and without clear and publicly available plans for use. It might be represented (and has) as councillors paying for their own 'jollies' as part of the event. Councillors can get very defensive about such suggestions. Last year, when the public raised questions about the level of the precept, they got a response based on councillors being unpaid. Now, that can be read in a number of ways.
Flicking back through history, the precept has been increased rather a lot since it came into being in 2002. At that time it was set at £9 for a Band E home. It's now going to be £24 for a Band D home (so slightly more for a Band E). That's an increase of nearly 200% in twelve years. Inflation rate during that time? Fairly steady at around the 3% mark annually. By 2006, the Band D properties would be paying £15. Much of this remained unspent at year end.
2012 then saw another 20% increase 'to pay for the Jubilee' (so that's a 50% increase over the past two years). And it's this combination that really sticks in the craw. If it went up 20% to pay for the jubilee, and there isn't a jubilee this year, presumably that spare cash can be used to pay for any civic activity around the Tour. Or does the Tour need EVEN MORE money? No case has been made.
As there will also be an increase in the Police's council tax precept as well ( a decision made by a Police Authority committee with no public debate or, as far as I can see, no consultation), we'll have to hope that Bradford Council keeps its own demands at current levels. It's a Labour council, though, so that seems unlikely.