Borough council to keep parish funding
RESIDENTS are being forced to pay more council tax following a decision by Swindon Council to not pass on a £167,000 pot of money to parish councils.
Swindon Council is only one of three local authorities in England that did not hand over a grant from the Government, which was recommended to be passed on to parish councils to help them cope with changes to council tax.
Wroughton Parish Council was forced to push up its council tax by five per cent after it found out it was not given £27,000 which it was expecting.
And Stratton St Margaret lost around £83,000, which meant its tax went up 2.5 per cent.
The borough, which was given £167,000 as part of the council tax benefit support grant, has now been sent a letter from the Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis asking it to rethink its decision.
In April the Government changed the rules, which meant people receiving council tax benefits were no longer included in the council tax base.
Stratton council’s clerk Paul Russell said he was told the money was not being passed on with only a few days to go before the council’s budget was settled for the year.
He said: “By that time there was nothing we could do.We were by far the worst affected by this decision and it does feel like an attack on us.”
Swindon councillor Ann Richards, who is also a member of Wroughton Parish Council, is presenting a motion to the next full council meeting to address the issue, calling on the authority to reconsider its decision.
He said: “I absolutely understand that the borough is short of cash. But they should be mindful of the good work the parish councils carry out. They do a great deal of work, a lot of general maintenance, which the borough would have to carry out themselves if it were not for the parish councils.”
“I think it’s terrible,” said Covingham parish vice chairman Derek Benfield.
“That money was meant to be cascaded down to the parish councils but the borough, in its wisdom, decided to keep the money for themselves.”
He said that Covingham would have received around £2,500 of the funding available.
The leader of the council David Renard said last February when the decision was made lots of the parishes had retained large bank balances and the council decided the money could be better spent by the borough.
He said: “The minister has written to us to ask us to reconsider. We will look at it at in our next budget proposals.”
He said councillors at first thought this money was a one-off payment but it has now been announced it could be an annual fee.