Have you ever looked closely at your Council Tax (CT) demand to see who gets your money, what proportion they get, and what percentage increases have been added to the different elements since last year?
In what are known as two-tier Local Government areas, your CT will be shared out, in varying amounts, between the County Council, the District or Borough Council, the Police Authority, the Fire & Rescue Authority and, if you have one, your Town or Parish Council. In Local Government jargon, the amount paid to each of these bodies is known as a precept.
[Note: If you live in an area with a single tier of local government i.e. a Unitary or a Metropolitan Authority, or if you live in London, fewer bodies share the money. In a few places, the Fire Service charge is included in the County charge.]
Each body sets its own precept every year and the total of all the precepts determines how much your total CT bill will be.
The District/Borough Council is responsible for collecting all the tax and then distributing it to the others.
Due to there having been some horrendous increases in CT in recent years, and in an attempt to limit the increases in the individual precepts, the Government now specifies a maximum percentage increase that can be applied. This is known as a cap. Currently (2015) the cap is 2% and applies to the precepts demanded by each body with the exception of Town and Parish Councils! This means that Town and Parish Councils can increase their precepts by whatever percentage they wish.
Being well aware that the cap does not apply to Towns and Parishes, a growing number of District Councils are offloading some of their non-statutory duties onto Towns and Parishes in their area but keeping the money that they would have had to spend on these duties.
This has resulted in many Town and Parish precepts rocketing and, in a growing number of cases, now being as much or even more than the precepts demanded by the District or Borough Council.
In a growing number of places these uncapped increases add considerably to the total increase in the CT bill, and push the total increase to over the 2% limit.
So Stanford Parish Council increased their precept from 22.91 to 28.36 an overall increase of 23.8%. All in all, 11 parish councils increased their precepts in Shepway for the year 2015/16.
The 11 are: Burmarsh, Hawkinge, Ivychurch, Paddlesworth, Saltwood, Sandgate, Sellindge, St Mary’s in the Marsh, Stanford, Stelling Minnis and Swingfield.