Villagers face a hefty hike in council tax

A parish council is proposing to double the council tax it claims from householders to fund a spending spree it says is essential.

Council tax-payers at Northchapel face an increase of more than 100 per cent in their parish council’s share of the levy for the coming financial year.

The council is proposing a hike in its precept of 19,000, up from 15,000 to 34,000 for 2008-9, adding significantly to the current parish figure of 43.82 at the middle-ranking band D. In addition there are the predicted increases in the county, district and police authority sums.

Residents have been told that in recent years the parish precept has been set on a ‘care and maintenance’ basis, resulting in no reserves to meet unexpected bills and little, if any, funding for village groups.

Now councillors plan to change all that and are proposing, among other things, a 40,000 grant towards the 250,000 project to repair and modernise the decades-old village hall.

Parish chairman John Morgan says on the village website funding the grant will cost each elector around 4.70 a year over the next 25 years.

The hall development failed last year to secure 170,000 in lottery cash which has left the scheme short of vital funds. Other projects include measures to control the speed of traffic flowing through the centre of the village on the A283 and past the school, and publication of a village plan.

Mr Morgan says the latter will assist the council in its approaches to government bodies for grants, and its contribution to the Local Development Framework to ensure Northchapel is developed in the way villagers want, and for the benefit of the community as a whole.

The parish authority also wants to start building a general reserve fund and to be in a position to assist the school in ‘maintaining and improving on the outstanding standard it has already achieved’.

Residents are told: “The council also believes we should ensure that the focal points of community life, the church, the village hall and the green, are a source of genuine pride to the community and that existing work in and around the village should continue and, in due course, be extended.

“All these plans require funding, which is why the council has drawn up a budget for the next financial year which will require an increase in the precept of a little over 100 per cent.”

Mr Morgan told the Observer: “The village hall needs to be refurbished and the grant we are proposing to give them is quite substantial. That is one element of the need to increase the precept, and there are other things we need to do.”

The council has had a preliminary meeting to set the precept level but it could be in for a rocky ride at its meeting next Wednesday, January 16, at 8pm in the village hall if residents protest at the planned increase.

Mr Morgan said: “The first ten minutes of the meeting is open to the public to air their views and we will then move into the formal agenda to approve the budget.

“This is really a rubber-stamping exercise unless we get a lot of resistance from the village.”