Stroud Town Council says proposed changes to how town and parish council tax is set could have a serious impact on the community.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is proposing that parish and town councils which have a total precept of at least £500,000 must carry out a referendum for more than a 2 per cent increase in their precept.
The town council precept makes up less than 10 per cent of the overall council tax. For example a 2% increase on the Stroud Town Council precept for 2016-2017 would add just 5 pence per week to the council tax bill for a band D household.
Under the proposed changes the Town Council would have to carry out a stand-alone parish precept referendum – at a cost of £15,000.
“The cost of the referendum would represent an increase on the current precept of approximately 3%, so we would spend more money on the referendum than what we would actually generate from the increase,” said Town Mayor Kevin Cranston.
“We regularly consult with Stroud residents to understand their needs and priorities so that we can respond positively to the things that they care about.”
The proposed changes could have a serious impact on the Town Council’s plans it wants to pursue over the next 20 years to improve the economy, such as the regeneration of the town centre as set out in Stroud’s Neighbourhood Development Plan.
“We have responded positively to the localism agenda, for example our Neighbourhood Development Plan,” said Cllr Cranston.
“That plan contains a long list of projects which the council wants to pursue to improve the economy, environment and sustainability of our town. If we are prevented from increasing our budget to take on the staff and resources to progress these projects they may well never progress.”
The Town Council has objected to the proposals and have lobbied Stroud MP Neil Carmichael to speak against the reforms.
“I am a firm supporter of local democracy and recognise the need for the Town Council to be in regular contact with their community, which they do,” said Mr Carmichael.
“Having examined the proposal from DCLG it is clear to me that the referendum requirement needs modification to reflect more realistic thresholds than those proposed.”
“Parish and town councils are well-placed to support their communities, they can own land, raise funds through loans and grants. They can muster an army of volunteers as our councillors are unpaid. They have the potential to make a real difference for their communities,” said Cllr Cranston.
“They will not be able to fulfil this role if they are not able to secure the financial resources needed to get the job done.”