A FUNDING cut from Oldham Council and rising bills have led Saddleworth Parish Council to increase local householders’ rates for the first time in five years by 5.17 per cent.
The Parish precept – which makes up part of every household’s Council Tax Bill – will increase for 2017/18 after it was approved by Saddleworth Parish Council as part of next year’s budget.
Cllr John Hudson, Chair of the Finance Committee, said the Parish Council faces significant cost increases including heating, lighting and maintenance for the recently refurbished Civic Hall.
He added the most serious pressure has come from Oldham Council’s decision to cut the Parish Council’s support grant by 15.2 per cent in 2017/18, 46.4 per cent in 2018/19 and 65.8 per cent in 2019/20.
Cllr Hudson said: “This grant goes towards funding those services which the Parish Council provides to the people of Saddleworth and our visitors.
“These include the clearance of public footpaths, litter picking and the provision of community toilets – services Oldham Council has abandoned.
“And the onus is on us to ensure the Civic Hall is kept as up-to-date as possible. Heating, lighting and everyday costs are going up and up.
“As regrettable as it is, we do not think it is too much to ask for the money to ensure we can continue to run things properly for the community.”
Cllr Pam Byrne, the chairman of the Parish Council, added: “Had Oldham Council not been withdrawing their allowance, it would have been easy not to increase our precept again.
“Although the increase is a relatively high percentage, put into context, it represents £1 per Band D property, which is less than 2 pence per week.”
Cllr Brian Lord said the rise would have not seem so staggering if it had been spread over the last few years.
“It works out at an increase of less than 20p a week over the last five years, when instead we’ve had no increase at all,” he explained.
“If we had put it up by that amount for the last few years, no one would have batted an eyelid but the amount all at once will be seen as a significant increase.”
However, the vote to accept the precept increase was not unanimous, with Liberal Democrats councillors Alan Belmore, Mavis Bingley, Barbara Beeley abstaining, along with Labour’s Paul Fryer who no longer lives in the constituency.
Cllr Belmore, leader of the Liberal Democrats on the Parish Council, had proposed an amendment of a two per cent increase, in line with the maximum allowed to local authorities.
But this was defeated, with Cllrs Belmore, Bingley and Beeley voting in favour, Cllr Fryer abstaining and eight councillors voting against.
Cllr Belmore said: “In the last Parish Council elections the Conservatives would tell anyone who would listen that they would freeze the Parish precept.
“Now they have voted less than two years after to hike that tax by a greater percentage than any council tax has risen in the last six years.
“The Conservative government has put a cap of two per cent on council tax rises. The Conservatives here need to explain why they think the people of Saddleworth should get an increase of more than double that.
“As public figures, we have an obligation to be open and honest. It is simply not good enough for the Conservatives to break their promises then mumble about how regrettable it is.
“The Liberal Democrats presented a smaller rise of two per cent in line with the national council tax cap. It is a shame our colleagues wouldn’t follow us in this.”