The high costs of community councils
Residents of the ‘urban’ area of Ashford are currently being consulted by Ashford Borough Council (ABC) regarding the possible establishment of five new community (parish) councils.
They may have already received the newsletter urging residents to vote yes to this idea.
The newsletter states that the cost “is likely to be no more than 50p per household per week” – ie, £25 per year. This is not true.
The councils, if established, could set whatever charge they liked. Whilst this could be just £25 per year, a much more realistic charge for a community council in a densely populated area is in the range £50 to £100 per year per household – ie, double to quadruple the figure quoted by this idea’s proponents.
By way of comparison, £75 is equivalent to one half of the ABC element of our council tax (band D property).
The latest figures from the government show that the average tax levied by community or parish councils in 2014-2015 is just over £50 per year.
This includes small parishes of just a few households, which skews the average figures downwards as they offer few, if any, services.
The tax, which is increasing by almost 5% each year on average, actually ranges from 30 pence up to £320 per Band D household per year, so we can see the scope for selectively choosing how to present the average cost is enormous.
Whilst it is true that the higher number of households in the urban area will produce more tax revenue, the demands on a council serving such a densely populated area are much greater.
Bear in mind that one new playground in one of the urban areas would cost each household in that area £50 per year, and a new community centre could cost each household an extra £100 per year.
Do we want to vote yes to something which could see the local element of our council tax rise dramatically? Is this the most cost efficient way to give the urban areas the improvements they actually need?
I would say no, and suggest that a more cost-effective way forward would be to set up effective neighbourhood forums with local councillors and elected community representatives using modest budgets, delegated from ABC, for improvements to the urban area – eg, renovating play areas, putting in extra litter bins and so on.
This already happens in Ashford, but the scheme could, and indeed should, be enhanced and expanded, as this can be done at a fraction of the cost of setting up and running five new councils. Jonathan Dance Northbrooke, Ashford
I hope the people of Ashford will seize the opportunity.
A growing town needs this type of facility, particularly as many of the water-related sports can be enjoyed by participants up into their later years and younger participants can use it as a springboard to greater things. Peter Davison Orlestone, near Ashford