The high costs of com­mu­nity coun­cils

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Points Of View -

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

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