Counting the cost of airbase closure

MBCH-15-07-12- RAF Henlow Reservist Police Graduation Parade. Henlow Camp. ENGPNL00120120716170512
MBCH-15-07-12- RAF Henlow Reservist Police Graduation Parade. Henlow Camp. ENGPNL00120120716170512

Residents in Henlow could be paying the price for the expected closure of the local RAF base.

Henlow Parish Council is to increase its council tax precept by 25% to protect community assets on the site.

But a local resident has hit out at the decision not to take the steep rise to the residents by holding a consulation.

“To my knowledge there has been no contact with residents prior to the decision being taken,” said the resident, who did not want to be named. The first thing people will know is when they get their council tax bills.

“I believe that if they had to raise it by 25% then there should have been some form of consulation with all the households for that sort of money.

“There must be a reason why they want to raise it so much but it might have been an idea to let people know, after all that’s democracy.

A spokesman for the parish council said the steep rise was to protect community assets following the closure of RAF Henlow.

“Henlow Parish Council decided at their meeting on 9th January 2017 to increase the precept from £131,474 to £163,280. A public meeting, held on 12th September 2016, to discuss the closure of RAF Henlow in 2020, showed that many residents wished for continued access to the numerous facilities that have been made available to the community over the years.

“The Parish Council are now looking to register these facilities as ‘Assets of Community Value.’ This would allow community based groups the right of first refusal to bid to acquire such assets, if an owner ever decides to dispose of them.

“Acquiring these assets could be expensive and this is the reason why the Parish Council agreed to increase the precept by 25% to allow borrowings of up to £500,000 to acquire these facilities. This rise in precept equates to a rise of 41p per week on a band D property.

“This information is available on the Henlow Parish Council website and also in the Parish Pump newsletter delivered by email and hard copy to residents of Henlow.”

The vote to raise the council precept was carried 10 votes in favour, with Councillors Michele Joy and Tim Wiles voting against.

Unlike borough councils which have to hold referendums to raise council tax by more than %5, town and parish councils are not restricted to the amount they raise. Arlesey Town Council raised their precept by 17% last month.

The Ministry of Defence announced the closure of RAF Henlow in September last year with the site to be sold off for housing.

The site started life as a military aircraft repair depot in 1917 and was opened in 1918.