A letter in the Kentish Express on Thursday 17th September has caused concern among voters that Community Councils will cause an unacceptable increase in their Council Tax. There were four responses to the letter including one from Bob Shrubb, Chair of South Ashford Community Forum:
Whilst I am aware that others from the Campaign for Ashford Community Councils have responded to Jonathan Dance’s letter, published in the Kentish Express of 17th September, I have been encouraged to respond specifically to the figures given by Mr. Dance.
Mr Dance states that the average precept is skewed downward by small councils. The second highest precept levied in Ashford is that of Appledore PC with just 326 Band D equivalent households. There is no relationship between the size of a local council and the precept it charges.
He indicates that councils in densely populated areas attract greater demands than rural parishes and states that a realistic charge is £ 50 – £ 100. The successful Queens Park Community Council in inner London, with the higher costs incurred by the location and a population density substantially greater than any of the proposed councils, has a precept of £ 44.40; below the national average.
Whilst there are local councils that provide few services there are also those like Tenterden Town Council, that attracts the highest precept for an Ashford local council at £ 88.31. Tenterden has:
- six officers with an employment bill of £ 150,000,
- a mayor with a mayoral allowance and civic costs and
- a number of properties, including the Town Hall, on which maintenance costs are incurred.
The operating costs of the Community Councils will be a fraction of the sum incurred by Tenterden.
The only entirely urban parish in Ashford is Stanhope, which like many parishes maintains a parish hall. It levies a precept of £ 24.17. From this it can be seen that £ 26 is a realistic estimate of the precept for the Ashford Community Councils.
After the low operating costs, the income from the precept, together with that from grants and other funds, is invested in the local community. The council‘s spending, hence the precept, will be guided by what the community say they want.
South Ashford Community Forum