Fury at town council’s 17% tax rise

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Arlesey residents are facing a whopping 17.1% tax rise as its town council replenishes its reserves.

But the town’s residents association has slammed the move, and is calling on the Government to apply rules, which stop borough councils raising more than 2% without a referendum, to town and parish councils as well,

Arlesey Town Council spent almost £14,000 defending legal action against its vice chairman Cllr Chris Gravett in 2015 after he was sued for libel by a former Town Clerk’s husband.

The money was not covered by the council’s insurance, and was paid from the council’s reserves, which Town council leader Jon Ware admitted this week, need to be replenished.

Arlesey Residents Association chairman Hugh Harper, himself a former council chairman, slammed the rise.

“Over the past 30 years there has never been an increase of more than 3 or 4%, now it’s 17% to pay for all this legal stuff,” he said.

“Arlesey taxpayers are paying for a councillor being taken to court, why should residents pay for this?

“When I was chairman of the council we looked after the money very tightly. We always believed the money should be spent on benefits for Arlesey.

“This council seems to be not bothered about that.”

In a letter to North Bedfordshire MP Alistair Burt, the association calls for a change in the law.

The letter states: “The profligate spending of Arlesey Town Council has seen them fritter away their reserves which took a considerable number of years to accumulate and ATC have over the last two years spent a considerable amount of resident’s funds on legal fees adding no value to our local community infrastructure. If they were subject to the same rules regarding increase in precepts they would not, we feel sure, be able to get a positive outcome in a referendum from local tax payers to support their proposed increase. The fact that there is no accountability to local tax payers supports their continued mismanagement of the council’s funds.”

Cllr Want said the rise was to replenish reserves which had taken a hit over the legal costs for Cllr Gravett.

“As a general rule the recommendation is that councils carry a quarter of their outgoings in reserve,” he said. “We are complying with the law.”

The increase will bring in £222,264 for the council, a rise of £33,000 on last year.

Borough and district councils are capped at a 2% council tax rise unless they hold a referendum. The government is however, allowing an extra rise which is ringfenced for social care.

Central Bedfordshire council has announced its tax rise will be 1.5% for 2017-18 with and extra 3% for social care.