Town Councillors have second thoughts on tax freeze

Bradley Stoke Town Council.

Bradley Stoke Town Council could still increase its precept (share of the Council Tax) for 2013/14 after six Councillors called an emergency meeting to reconsider a decision, made only two weeks ago, to freeze it.

A Council press release put out on 17th January boasted of the precept being frozen “for a historic fourth year in a row” following a decision made at a Full Council meeting the night before but it seems that some Councillors have now had second thoughts.

Under its standing orders (constitution), the Council is not normally permitted to reverse a decision within six months of it being made, but the six Councillors have invoked a special clause that allows a review to take place if at least four Councillors support it.

The six that have called for a review are: Cllrs Brian Hopkinson, Sarah Pomfret, Ben Walker, Paul Hardwick, Elaine Hardwick and Keith Cranney.

The development is an embarrassing rebuff for former Mayor Cllr Robert Jones, who had argued strongly for a freeze at the Full Council meeting and was quoted in the press release as saying:

“Our residents are seeing their incomes eroded by inflation, increasing the precept now will only add to the squeeze.”

The special resolution to be debated at the emergency meeting on 6th February states:

“[We] wish to immediately revisit the decision made by BSTC on 16th January 2013 in relation to the Budget and Forward Plan, whereby we believe a zero increase in Precept would not deliver sufficient safeguard against the uncertain future of grant funding from South Gloucestershire Council.”

The decision to freeze the precept was taken despite the Town Council’s Financial Officer recommending that a 3% increase be introduced for 2013/14.

The Town Council’s finances have come under pressure because of a reduction in the theoretical number of properties used in the formula for calculating the precept. The change has come about as a consequence of the Government’s decision to hand responsibility for Council Tax Benefit to local authorities, while at the same time reducing support to 90% of the previous level. The loss of revenue to the Town Council will amount to £75,137 for 2013/14.

The Town Council’s loss will be partly offset by South Gloucestershire Council passing down a £47,158 share of its Local Council Tax Scheme Support Grant in 2013/14, although future levels of this payment are uncertain.

There are also indications that town and parish councils will increasingly be asked to fund services that are currently provided by South Gloucestershire Council, which is itself in the middle of a £34 million cost-cutting programme.

At the January Full Council meeting, one Councillor, Brian Hopkinson, agreed with the Finance Officer’s analysis and proposed a precept increase of 2.7% but his proposal failed to find a seconder. Cllr Jones’s proposal for a precept freeze was then passed by six votes to two, with three abstentions.

The ‘third draft’ budget agreed by Council incorporates several cuts introduced since the previous draft, including £8,400 off the annual youth provision budget and £4,000 off the reserves allocated for the Bradley Stoke ‘Britain in Bloom’ initiative.

The Town Council precept forms only a small part (around 7%) of the overall Council Tax bill that will land on residents’ doorsteps in April. The bulk of the charges are levied by South Gloucestershire Council. Other components are levied by the local police and fire authorities.

The Government has offered ‘principal’ authorities an additional 1% grant if they freeze their component of the Council Tax for 2013/14 but an increasing number have indicated that they plan to make increases of just under 2%. Recently introduced legislation requires most principal authorities in England to conduct a local referendum before introducing increases above 2%. The cap does not currently apply to town or parish councils but there has been talk of it being extended to cover these in future years.

South Gloucestershire Council is expected to agree the level of its 2013/14 Council Tax at a meeting on 20th February.

Annual General Meeting of Bradley Stoke Town Council (2011).

Photo: Bradley Stoke Town Council in action (May 2011).

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  1. So easy to spend other people’s money isn’t it?

    Would anyone actually notice if this entire layer of local government totally disappeared?

  2. I thought that the new offices provided significant savings, could these savings not be used to reduce or remove any need to increase the charges to the residents?

  3. When residents were haunted by inflation and increase in living expense, I cannot agree with building up future reserves.

    We have agreed for a balanced budget this year, after quite lengthy discussions and debates. Hence, a review was not necessary.

    Sorry this is my personal opinion, but others have the liberty to disagree with me. I am not here to stir up a controversy.

    Thank you.

  4. Mr Aditya, I would love to disagree with you but unfortunately your post makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

    Or perhaps that was the point….

  5. Mr Richard, (I don’t know, whether that is your real name)

    You haven’t mentioned what you are disagreeing with. I requested you earlier to come out openly. But you failed to do that and deserves no response at all. If you have nothing to hide, why are you hiding behind the keyboard and spreading malicious statements against me. I feel pity of you.

    I already mentioned, I am not interested in such wasteful arguments. Sorry. Bye.

  6. Aditya

    Your post at 2.17pm makes no sense, perhaps the reason why I have not been able to deal with previous matter is because I am caring for my dying father so I can only apologise that you have slipped down my list of prioities.

    However if you are unable to deal with criticism then perhaps public office is not a great choice of vocation.

    Now either make some sense, or leave.

  7. It seems to me that everyone loses here, but for me the big issue is how the youth within Bradley stoke are again being pushed aside, for grand schemes like a new office building at the cost of £400,000. I am willing to bet this balanced budget will be made with big cuts again. Oh wait that’s what they have done already, what will they say is the justification in attacking those that can not vote against them.

  8. I would suggest the best thing to do for all persons, is to attend this extra-ordinary meeting, I have received a ”summons” for Wednesday 6th February. Since the argument for re-visiting financial directive Vs outcome needs to be fully understood and to hear this explanation in plain clear English without the mind-boggling-moneyisms of percentages. And that Cllr. Aditya can be questioned as part of public forum question-time as to what ever he is trying to communicate. If anyone has a burning question, you can send an email to the Town Clerk for that to be considered in this hearing. Hope this helps.

  9. To the author of the comment at 4.56 pm, It is fascinating to hear the story of a caring son of a dying father, who had the time to make nasty comments. At that time, (Friday 11th January 2013 at 8:48 am, Friday 11th January 2013 at 11:31 am, Friday 11th January 2013 at 3:49 pm) you had the time again and again to make vicious remarks. But you have no time on that day or on the next day for a direct meeting (if we are going to believe your words now). Now you came with the fictitious tale of a caring son and a dying father. What happened to your dying father now to change your priorities?

    People with sense who knows the politics of the town have already realised who you are. If you have any sense, take off your mask. We challenge you for an open debate.

    I am happy to listen to criticisms which have even a pinch of sense. But you are no body, but a ghoul who is hiding behind keyboards and smear. If I can borrow your own words, you are nothing but a bag of wind. You don’t deserve any attention any more.

    You may have fooled every one for some time, but it is not possible to fool everyone, every time. Eventhough you are changing IP addresses, the tracking system have reached you. We are quite amused with your over-smart foolishness.

  10. Yeee…Anyway, besides you guys having WAY too much time on your hands getting into flaming battles in the comments section…Back to the topic?

    The decision was made to freeze tax, this I support as I’m pretty sure the majority do. It is widely known the local council offices were relocated at a huge cost (I think I read somewhere they were spending thousands on curtains and fluffy chairs etc). I don’t feel comfortable in removal of tax freeze for whatever reason that might be suggested, when in my mind it’s likely just to cover their backsides for spending half a million on new premises.

  11. Surely we are all having to tighten our belts at the moment and live within our means? Every household in Bradley Stoke is having to do just that, why do six of our Councillors think that their Town Council should be any different?
    I would urge these Councillors to think twice before raising Council Tax and splurging public funds in these difficult times for everyone.

  12. I would obviously object to councillors spending money on making life comfortable for themselves or staff, but some things do need supporting and our young people are one such group.

    Those residents who have posted supporting the freeze need to be aware that SGC is limited to the amount of money they can spend on things in the name of austerity and at the moment our town council can pick up those costs without being penalised by this dreadful govt. Therefore, if we want some sort of youth service in the town we will have to pay for it; and despite no longer have children of that age I would be happy to pay a little extra to provide them with some decent facilities.

    I had my BSTC newsletter through last week and Ben Walker appears to be pleased with a ONE YEAR deal for youth funding. How times have changed and how easily pleased some councillors are! Unfortunately, since taking control of the town council the Conservatives have sought to slash the budgets that had previously supported young people and have even allowed SGC to reduce grants that had been fought for for many years, Shame on you.

    There are some things worth spending money on and our young people should be at the top of the list. After all in most cases an extra 3% is a small increase and probably less than a pint of beer.

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