ROGATE parish councillors are the latest villagers to take the plunge with dramatic budget increases to plug the gap created by cuts in services further up the financial chain.
In a bid to be able to carry out a number of small projects and help villagers across the community, the parish council has agreed to raise its precept from £19.05p for the average band D council tax payer to £29.60p for a band D householder.
It represents a whopping 55.3 per cent.
But as Steve Williamson, chairman of the parish council’s finance committee, pointed out: “The trouble with percentages is they always look alarming, whereas this actual increase is only £10 a year. If you consider many of us pay £2 a day for a national newspaper, it puts the increase into perspective.”
He said over the past three to four years, Rogate parish council had been eating away at its reserves to try to fund expenses in the community.
“It was simply not sustainable because in a couple of years we would have ended up with no reserves and that is not a prudent approach.
What we are trying to do is make sure we get a level of income to match our budget so we don’t have to dip into our reserves.”
“What we are trying to do is reinstate the help to the community that has been cut in recent years.
“We want to help the toddler group and the village hall in some way. We also want to help the elderly in our community and there are one or two refurbishing projects we want to help.”
He said the budget consisted of a long list of ‘fairly small’ items where parish councillors wanted to help the community.
“There is also a significant sum going to Rogate Youth Club, some £2,000, because we pay for one of the youth workers and together with all the other items, the amount adds up.”
Mr Williamson said it was true that Rogate, in common with other rural areas, was having to take up the slack from service cuts.
“The whole push towards more local accountability and local politics has meant some of the authorities have trimmed their budgets and are expecting small authorities to take on the bills.”
But he said in many ways this was not a bad move.
“We at least get the services we need locally. We can tailormake them to get what we want in our own villages.”
He said Rogate’s decision to make a significant rise in its precept was a bid to catch up with other parish councils which had already made the move.
See this week’s Midhurst and Petworth Observer (January 23) for the full feature.