Parish council tax bills rise despite squeeze

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villageImage source, Creatas Images

Villagers paying council tax are seeing their parish bills rise at a higher rate than the share they pay to larger authorities.

BBC News analysed the bills of more than 8,500 town and parish councils from 2013-14 to 2016-17.

Parish councillors say they are being asked to take on more responsibilities as their larger local authority counterparts make cuts.

The government said it expected parish councils to "demonstrate restraint".

BBC England's data unit and BBC Newcastle found:

  • The total amount of tax collected by parish councils rose from £361m to £434m from 2013-14 to 2016-17
  • That saw the average bill rise from £50 to £57, a rise of 14%
  • Some parish councils have raised their share of the bill by far larger amounts
  • Parts of Kettering, West Berkshire, Peterborough, Rutland, Pendle, Harborough, Cornwall and Copeland saw the largest increases
  • Some 318 parish and town authorities out of 8,583 issued levies in 2016-17 that were at least double the amount they charged in 2013-14

Larger authorities are obliged to hold a referendum for any increases above 2%, although those responsible for adult social care are now allowed to increase bills by a further 3% for this purpose only.

Parish councils, which generally represent people with populations of less than 2,500, are not subject to the same cap.

Image caption,
Jonathan Owen said parish councils were taking on more responsibilities

Jonathan Owen, of the National Association of Local Councils, said: "England's 10,000 parish councils are being asked to do a lot more.

"They are being asked to do a lot more by their residents, by government, and indeed by larger councils who increasingly can't afford to run services they previously provided.

A Department of Communities and Local Government spokesman said it had consulted on extending the referendum principles to parish councils and would keep it under review.

He said: "Parish and town councils play a key role delivering services within the communities they serve.

"We expect them to demonstrate restraint when setting their precepts."

Why parish councils are raising taxes

  • James Jacoby, clerk of Marazion Town Council, said its share had been kept historically low, but councillors voted for an increase in order to keep two sets of public toilets open and restore a popular playground. He said: "I don't think any council likes to put up its council tax... the truth of the matter is that it is impossible to have the services that people want without actually paying for them."
  • Whitegate and Marton Parish Council said it had installed public defibrillators and provided a safe drop-off area for children outside the local primary school
  • Patney Parish Council said it had had one of the lowest precept levels in the county, and decided to raise it in anticipation of taking on more responsibility from Wiltshire Council
  • Evenwood and Barony Parish Council said it had stepped in to save a popular children's centre from closure. "When the smaller council decides to take things on, because they have limited funds and low precepts, any increase is highlighted much more," a spokesman said.