No support grant for towns and parishes

Central Beds Council
Central Beds Council

Central Beds Council is being accused of Scrooge-like behaviour after once again refusing to share the Council Tax Support Grant.

The council’s Executive Committee has proposed that it will not pass on the government grant to town and parish councils for the second year running. This means town and parish councils will be forced to implement sharp increases in their council tax precepts to be able to deliver services.

The Council Tax Support Grant was set up by the government in 2013 to make up for losses in the shake-up of council tax rules.

All unitary authorities receive the money. In two-tier systems like Central Beds it was assumed a portion of it would be passed down to town and parish councils.

Independent Central Beds councillor for Potton, Adam Zerny, said: “This money was meant for the parish and town councils. The government made this clear. It is not right that they have to put their precept up because Central Beds Council wants to use the money elsewhere.”

Peter Langridge, chairman of Potton Town Council added: “It is wrong that Potton Town Council should have to consider a double digit increase in precept just because Central Beds Council refuses to pass on the support grant.”

Defending the decision Councillor Maurice Jones, Central Beds’ executive member for corporate resources, said: “In these times of austerity all councils are facing real challenges in meeting increasing service demands with less funding. At Central Bedfordshire, we have addressed this with a relentless focus on efficiency, and as a result have saved more than £70million since we were created without cutting front-line services.

“But it is difficult, and in reality we are simply not in a position to release our revenue support grant from government (which does not include any ring-fenced council tax support grant) to other councils. Our advice would be that they need to be as focused on saving money as we have been.”

The budget will be agreed at a meeting at Central Beds’ headquarters on February 26. It starts at 6.30pm and is open to the public.