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0 votes
Is there any manifest legal reason why a Council cannot prepare separate options when setting the precept and put the choice out to public consultation.
by (5.0k points)

4 Answers

0 votes
The precept needs to be based upon the budget so the two, a budget consultation and precept setting, go hand in hand.  Participatory budgeting, when you consult with the parish is good practice but time consuming so needs to be started early on as most principal authorities will require your precept request in December/January although legally I believe the deadline is a little later.
by (19.6k points)
0 votes
To my knowledge none whatsoever should the council decide to do so. It could be argued that the council is elected to make such decisions on behalf of the community.

In a democracy such an action whilst being seen as the ultimate in democracy would be probably a nightmare to organise in any meaningful and constructive way given that to start producing a budget (normally during the half year point) and meeting the deadline for presentation to the LA of the precept bid with the required voting of acceptance of the budget and bid by council leaves very little time to have a referendum on which budget is best.

The public, if the council does their job properly, must present their budget proposals  for public scrutiny anyway which allows public input and questions.
by (27.2k points)
0 votes
Slightly off topic, but I hope Councils have taken into account the rise in energy prices. I know of one council that have had a huge demand from the electric company to cover street lights. Not the best time to receive a major demand just as budgets have been set.
by (5.3k points)
The situation as I see it is presently Councillors can set a tax demand at whatever limit they choose and that decision cannot be challenged.  That being the case it could be open to abuse (repeat could) depending on the current regime.   I  argue that somehow those that are being taxed  should have an avenue for input.  The question is how do you manage it.  I have mentioned the concept before of participatory budgeting only to be greeted with grunts of disbelief. Most PCs seem to aim for a politically acceptable PC precept figure rather presenting a choice.   In this respect I think the whole criteria for earmarked reserves needs to be looked at and replaced with a project specific budget
0 votes
Whilst this sounds like a good example of open and transparent decision making, the reality is something else. In any public consultation, only a tiny minority will respond, so the outcome doesn't reflect the views of the electorate. Add to that the fact that, in this example, people might be tempted to choose the option with the lowest precept, so is it really a meaningful exercise?

It might be more meaningful to conduct a simple consultation on the big-ticket items, as much of a council's other spending is contractual obligations anyway. Even this will fall foul of the minority response issue, as well as self-interest. I have no young children and my grandchildren live miles away, so I'd rather my council didn't spend my council tax on children's play equipment.
by (53.6k points)
Of Course you cannot please all of the people all of the time  but you could set up a properly constructed and balanced panel to put ideas to.  From what I can see so far is that "public consultation" is sometimes put into the too difficult to solve tray and  as such disregarded .  The inevitable result is that you then default to the Councillors are always right scenario. Hmm interesting
I guess that there might be a size issue here. In a large parish such as yours, there might be some merit in setting up such a process, although, in percentage terms, you'd still only be listening to a tiny minority. For a small parish, we'd only expect five or six responses, which wouldn't change our understanding of the situation.

In my many years of local government experience, I've seen countless public consultations in which the instigating council has failed to determine beforehand what, if anything, it will do as a consequence of the exercise. They consult because it feels like the right thing to do, discover that only 20% of the target audience can be bothered to respond, of whom 52% are in favour and 48% are against, so the difference between the two is 0.8% of the eligible public. Acting on the instructions of 0.8% of the population creates an interesting precedent for future responses to public petitions for local causes.
Dave. Its ironic that I am this morning dealing with an ex Councillor on a local forum who is accusing me of  not representing the views of the electorate because I have a different view to his on a Planning issue  . Who would be a Councillor ??
What is a precept for is the basic question? It is to finance the planned running costs legal obligations and projects of the council. If a council communicates with the electorate correctly regarding projects and expenses during the year from planning through to completion then effectively they are consulting with the electorate. Trouble is of course how many councils hand on heart have an effective two way communication system in place other than the bare minimum. As already pointed out horses and drinking water spring to mind. Unfortunately when both parties don't communicate we know who gets the blame.
Ah yes, ex-Councillors... you gotta love 'em. You have a lot to live up to with your council's recent track record as a beacon of open and accountable local government! We provide all new councillors with an induction pack that includes all the usual paperwork etc, plus earplugs, skin-thickening cream and kevlar underpants!

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