This appears complicated - but it shouldn’t be.
There are some ‘known’ facts, some ‘assumed’ facts and some assumptions. There are questions that have been posed and answers provided.
The answers provided are generally taken as being true and accurate but it is felt that what has NOT been answered is where the truth is actually to be found and that particular care and attention has been paid to avoiding answering those parts.
I observe 1 PC closely and several more casually.
The example comes from the 1 PC I have observed but - as has been stated by the county association of local councils input - the issue affects “…virtually all councils in 2021/22…” (in the LA area)
Nov 20 PC holds budget meeting and agrees by vote a 0% parish precept increase.
Mar 21 council tax summary received from LA shows a 1.3% increase to parish precept.
How is this possible?
The how is this possible question is what has resulted in various answers from various sources - some are patently contradictory, some are so vague as to demonstrate that the person providing the answer is absolutely clueless about the issue, some seem to simply accept that it has happened and offer a shallow reason why - but no questioning of how and whether it is ‘legal.’
1 x PC (plus others through liaison)
1 x County association of local councils
1 x County councillor (in liaison with county council finance department)
1 x concerned resident seeking credible answers
The story so far (timeline as pieced together from available information):
Nov 22 county council informs all PCs of a forecast downturn in CT income to county as a consequence of ‘predicted’ increase in council tax support grant claimants (discounts or waivers in CT liability due to pandemic) resulting in a lower grant being available to PCs. Less Band D paying households equals less money “in” to county and less money “across” to PCs by way of grant.
There is no reason to believe that information was NOT sent to all PCs as has been stated by county council.
There IS a question about the accuracy and validity of the “prediction” of reduced income to county and on what basis this analysis has been made - no supporting data for this has been made available.
The subject PC held budget meeting in Nov 20 and set a 0% precept by vote.
The process of arriving at that is highly dubious - but that’s another story and it is NOT known if the PC received, understood the implication or took account of the correspondence that is believed to have been forwarded to them from county council.
The 0% precept was agreed by vote at a public meeting and was advertised by the clerk on social media.
The minutes for that meeting however were not publicised until Mar 21 when the precept issue was flagged and questioned.
So what we have is a situation which - according to the county association - affects virtually all councils in 21/22.
PC set, agreed, voted and advertised their precept for FY 21/22 at 0% increase.
Council tax summary received county wide Mar 21 with a different precept value than that which was agreed by (apparently many) PCs.
The explanation (in so far as it goes) from county council is that - due to predicted reduced income to county, there will be a reduced grant available to parishes.
That’s all OK, I get that (not sure I believe it in the absence of supporting data but I’ll accept it ‘in principle.’)
The chair of the subject PC has publicly stated that the increase has been IMPOSED upon the PC by county.
The county councillor has stated that (county) "...cannot prescribe the decisions they (PC) make and definitely cannot impose anything on a Town or Parish Council..."
So now we get to the exam questions which still remain outstanding answers from county councillor and county council:
Did county tell parishes that the £s figure demand from parish to county would be unachievable due to predicted reduction in county income?
If yes, did parishes review their forecast 21/22 FY spend (down) in order to reduce spending and keep precept demand to county within the level that would ’fit’ the predicted available grant?
Did county simply ‘adjust’ parish precept %s ’up’ to make up the predicted shortfall in what parishes had submitted as grant demand?
Questions for the esteemed membership of this forum:
Has anyone else come across anything like this?
Am I missing something that is blindingly obvious?
Any ideas / suggestions welcomed - apart from ask the clerk.