A preceptual issue

(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. 

2 responses
The calculation that the parish precept has risen 200% since 2002 is astonishing. I have lived in the town for over 25 years and to be honest didn't become aware of the rises until 2012 when they were increased by 20%. However your figures show these large rises are almost the norm. I suppose that the relatively small figures involves means that most people do not really notice these increases. The council appears to have forgotten that the money collected should be used for the benefit of the people of Ilkley. I am at a loss to understand how spending £9000 on a large TV screen will do that. The problem with the council seems to be the lack of any form of consultation. It would be nice if people of the town where more involved when deciding what priorities should be. At present the Parish Council seems to decide itself what to spend money on and takes little notice of anyone else. Why, for example, are they willing to spend money on the Manor House and not the Childrens Centre on Little Lane? Both have great merit but should it be a few councillors who decide on which is more important to the town. It is interesting to see Kris Hopkins criticising the council as well as the Labour Party. Mike Gibbons, however, seems unrepentant and defends the councils decision. Perhaps, he has no option but to support the councils decision but it makes him look very out of touch with the town. Still I suppose he will get voted in again in May and will, consequently, assume that that the townsfolk agree with his actions
I think you're absolutely right Edward. I actually wouldn't mind if the council said 20pounds a head, to go into support for the Children's Centre and the Museum. But it's about transparency. When I get a moment i'm going to go back through all the council grants for the past few years and attempt to cross-reference against councillors' interests. I've just realized that this blog was a bit chaotic. Apologies, glad you got the point I was making.