Parish council raises tax 28 per cent

A PARISH council has voted to increase its precept by almost 30 per cent this year, adding more than �100 to residents’ annual tax bills.

A PARISH council has voted to increase its precept by almost 30 per cent this year, adding more than �100 to residents’ annual tax bills.

Despite the district council, fire service and dozens of other neighbouring parish councils opting to freeze, and in some cases reduce, their precepts for 2011/12, councillors in Sutton voted to push through a whopping 28 per cent increase.

The increase takes the village’s precept to �166,500, the third largest in the district and bigger than Littleport and Witchford combined and almost three times that of Stretham.

Some councillors said the rise, which was approved on January 11, was necessary for the village to retain all of its vital services but others who sit on the parish said the move was “shocking” and “unfair.”

Cllr David Atkinson, said: “A fair budget or precept could not be set because the council were not permitted by the chairman to refer to or discuss anything to do with the administration budget. This is certainly undemocratic and maybe illegal, but definitely unfair to the council tax payers of Sutton who are now burdened with a 28 per cent increase in the precept.

“I have tried hard since becoming a councillor to represent the best interests of the parishioners. In view of this unprecedented and shocking increase, I fear to little effect. East Cambs District Council have just announced that it is freezing the Council Tax this year to ‘spare residents greater strain’ regretfully no such concerns were taken into account by Sutton Parish Council.”

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Fellow parish councillor Roger Pauley, said at the meeting: “Everyone in the country is making cuts, we are in a new world now where we all have to make cuts. Bringing in this increase makes us look like we are in cloud cuckoo land.”

According to the parish council’s own figures, the increase will cost the village’s 3,000 households another �104 each for the next year.

Each year, the district’s 35 parishes from Ashley to Wooditton discuss and agree their annual precepts for submission to East Cambridgeshire District Council (ECDC) in January. The figures are then used to set tax on Band D properties in the respective parishes.

Though tax increases at district and county level are capped, parish councils are without ceiling when setting a precept.

City of Ely Council commands the largest precept in the district at more than �288,000 with Soham — which opted to freeze its precept this year — at �202,000 and Sutton, third largest at �166,500.

Parish council chairman, cllr David Deacon, told the meeting: “For a Band D property next year, it will cost each household two pounds per week extra and that is for all the services and facilities in the village, the youth club, The Glebe, the football ground. All the things that we want.

Cllr Ian Dewar, said: “This council has shown itself to be among the most progressive in the UK, everything we have been doing for our youth, we have done it without the help of the county council.

“I remember what this place was like 20 years ago, it was a hole. There was drunkeness, graffiti and vandalism and the council’s before us have done a fantastic job in getting us to where we are now.”