Pay extra on your tax to help causes
Bath residents will soon be invited to top up their council tax with a voluntary contribution to fund local amenities and services at risk of cuts.
Bath and North East Somerset Council is borrowing an idea from Westminster City Council, which has netted £1 million since 2018 to fund local projects.
But fears have been raised it could deepen divisions and “cannibalise” the income of established causes.
The community contribution fund will be run by the authority as a oneyear trial and then could become a separate charity.
Cllr Alastair Singleton told a scrutiny panel meeting on September 28: “The purpose should be to increase the council’s ability to deliver on its priorities. It’s a way to increase income at a time when income is under pressure to support services that might otherwise be cut.
“I have a real concern that if it were to be a separate charity it would compete with a number of similar benevolent funds like St John’s, Genesis or DHI. The market for those might be cannibalised if the council moved in on that space.”
The Westminster model lets residents and visitors pay into a voluntary contribution fund. It has generated £1 million since it launched, with the money being spent supporting rough sleepers, youth services and lonely people.
B&NES Council voted to follow its lead in July after calls from residents who said they wanted to pay more, and a motion from the Labour group.
The fund will be open to residents, businesses and visitors. How they would pay in is yet to be decided.
Cllr Andy Furse said: “Parks, libraries, youth services are three things that will, as we’re cash-strapped, get cut and cut and cut. They will forever be on the low priority list.
“Those three things bring a lot of pleasure and joy to many residents across the whole district.
“If you get into social care and children’s services that are hugely funded, that small amount could get swallowed up. It needs to be nonstatutory services where you can see the benefit.” He said residents in his ward, Kingsmead, may want to see their money targeted towards Royal Victoria Park.
But Cllr Mark Elliott warned that it would be “dangerous and divisive” if money from wealthy residents was only spent in their wards. He also voiced concerns about a charity paying for services that should be funded through taxation. Cllr Hal Macfie, inset, agreed, saying: “Having an independent charity is a good way to go.
“I wouldn’t want it to be providing services the council has cut. We should identify things that are worth doing and will make people feel good. They should be generic rather than ward-based.”
Cllr Lucy Hodge said the system should be kept simple, with boxes to tick on council tax forms, and could be like Waitrose’s Community Matters scheme, which gives shoppers a say on how their money is spent by voting with a token.
She added: “People will want to know what they’re ticking the box for, not think ‘I’m putting it into a slush fund for something obscure I don’t necessarily agree with.’
The community contribution fund year’s trial will run from April.
The party group leaders will shortlist the priorities that should be supported.