Parish councils may face referendum cap over ‘excessive’ tax

Analysis by BBC News found thousands of parish and town councils in England increased their share of the annual bill, raising £18.9m in extra funds.
The government said it could make them “subject to the referendum principles”.
But parish councils said that would be a threat to democracy.
Figures show 3,659 parish councils raised the basic Band D tax bill by more than 1.99%, the referendum threshold for larger councils.
Sixty small authorities at least doubled residents’ bills last year.
Another 130 put their bills up by between 50 and 99% while 1,001 increased the annual bill for a Band D home by £5 or more.
Parish council tax rises: Small councils not subject to cap
£34.27 average annual share of a Band D council tax bill or £5 is the maximum others could increase without a referendum
• 5,217 parish and town councils increased the bill
• 3,659 increased the basic demand by above 1.99%
• 60 parish councils at least doubled their bills in 2015-16
3,535 councils froze or reduced their precept
Source: DCLG

Larger authorities and other bodies, such as police and crime commissioners, have to hold a referendum if they want a rise of 2% or more, or would raise bills by £5 per year per household. Parish councils are not subject to the same cap. This year, for larger councils, the threshold will be 3.99% as long as most of the increase funds adult care.
Some parish councils now planning large percentage increases for 2016-17, such as Sandbach Town Council in east Cheshire. It will raise its share of the council tax by 30%, about £18 a year for a Band D household.
A Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) spokesman said: “Town and parish councils should protect their taxpayers from excessive council tax increases; if they fail to do so, government has the option of making them subject to the referendum principles in future.
“This government is determined to keep council tax down with average council tax bills set to be less in real terms in 2020 than they were in 2010.”
The spokesman would not say whether there was a percentage rise threshold in mind for parish councils.
DCLG figures reveal out of 8,752 parish councils who had a share of council tax this year and last, 3,535 reduced or froze Band D bills.

Under the Coalition government, councils and other local authorities were stopped from increasing council tax by 2% or more without first holding a referendum, but the rules do not apply to parish councils.
The first such referendum took place in May 2015 and was triggered when Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Olly Martins imposed a 15.8% increase in his force’s share of council tax to pay for more officers. However, voters rejected the rise at the ballot box.
For the coming year, Chancellor George Osborne has raised the limit for a referendum to 3.99%, on condition that half the rise be used as a “social care precept” to fund adult care.

It is a good question: Should Parish Councils have the powers to raise their precepts by huge percentages -or should they be subject to the same legislation as larger authorities?

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4 Responses to Parish councils may face referendum cap over ‘excessive’ tax

  1. S Thornton says:

    Just to be clear, Anston Parish Council voted to increase the Precept by 1.1%. Half of those Councillors who voted to accept this figure actually thought they were voting to a “nil” rise in council tax. Note, the Precept IS the Council Tax ( for the Parish). The Cllrs who voted against the 1.1% rise did so in protest that they were not allowed to make proposals to make more savings. This was a blatant breach of democracy. Those Cllrs were prevented from making proposals that would have saved the Parish Council ( and thus YOU the Taxpayer) approx ANOTHER £20,000. The increase could have been a significant decrease in Precept if those who did not know what they were doing just listened to those with previous experience. I repeat again, Cllrs Ireland Sr and Ireland Jr did not attend a Budget meeting, but proposed and seconded the increase, and Cllr Manship did not even know what the proposed expenditure was, yet he still voted to increase your Tax ( the Labour Party at its best again).
    I stood on a ticket of bringing down the Precept for the good of the Community, Putting up the precept is clearly not in the interest of the people of Anston. We should live within our means.

    Cllr Thornton


  2. Insider. says:

    I agree that parish councils should not have unlimited powers to raise the precept as they see fit.
    In my view ALL councils should be required by legislation to cap local tax rises at 1.%.
    There are no valid reasons why precepts should rise above that figure given that inflation is 0.3%.
    If councils impose higher precepts on their local residents then perhaps voters should ask why councillors cannot manage taxpayers money efficiently.
    APC is one of 3000+ parish councils that has shown how it can be done.
    Well done to all councillors.


  3. gary says:

    Parish councils should be limited to how much they can increase the precept. The rate of inflation is justifiable but not always necessary as demonstrated by A.P.C. The increase in monetary terms was nil. This resulted in the people of Anston in real terms not paying any extra towards the parish precept.


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