PENARTH COUNCIL APPROVES INFLATION-BUSTING 4.51% HIKE IN LOCAL PRECEPT

The Penarth Precept - added to Council Tax is to rise by 4.51%

The Penarth Precept – added to Council Tax –  is to rise by 4.51% this year even though it turned out that the council didn’t need all the extra precept it charged council tax-payers last year

Penarth Town Council’s Policy and resources committee last night approved an increase of over 12% in the town council’s annual budget (up from £676,946 to £758,561).

The leader of the council and committee chairman Cllr Mike Cuddy (Labour St Augustines), opened a debate on the budget and on the consequent increase in the Town Precept [ the amount to be added to Vale of Glamorgan Council Tax Bills to cover the expenditure of Penarth Town Council ].

Leader of the Council Mike Cuddy (Labour St Augustines)

Leader of the Council Mike Cuddy (Labour St Augustines)

Cllr Cuddy said that “as expressed in percentage terms,  the increase sounds a great deal. In pure monetary terms it’s from about £6.00 to £10.00 – not weekly, not monthly but annually“. “That” he said” is the reality of this in comparison to the budget of other institutions which claim precepts. It’s very small –  and hopefully can be used with great impact”

He said there were three ways of looking at the shape of what the council was doing. One element was housekeeping competence and efficiency. The Council had also set out to consult the community about “what they’d like us to do over and above our normal services”. against a background in which the Vale Council was “re-shaping” services .  Penarth Council wanted to preserve services and not to see them go.  He said the council had “reserves” and it could judge how of those reserves needed to be applied in order to make the precept rise “acceptable” whilst retaining sufficient reserves to deal with contingencies.

Cllr Ian Courtney (Labour Cornerswell)

Cllr Ian Courtney (Labour Cornerswell)

Cllr Ian Courtney (Labour Cornerswell) said the increase of  12.6% in expenditure which was quoted in the council’s internal budget report was an “irrelevant comparison”. He said “The real figures we should be looking at should not be the original budget figures, but those comparing out-turn with out-turn” [ i.e. what the council actually spent in the last financial year] and reminded members of the press present they had “a duty to inform the public” accordingly. Cllr Courtney said that Penarth Town Council had consistently underspent against budget. There was therefore no reason to believe that the council would not underspend against the budget forecast this year [ 2016/17]. He  calculated that the proposed12.06% increase”  for 2016/17, had it been calculated on “out-turns” since 2011/12 –  would actually amount to a proposed increase of “around 5%”  – and said this was an accurate figure to be quoted.

Cllr Cuddy said “It is terribly difficult to reconcile accounting  procedures with everyday understanding”. Cllr Courtney said the Treasury’s Blue Book adopted a similar accounting principle – and saw no reason why the council should not be consistent with that and reminded members he had first-hand experience of dealing with these things.

Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell)

Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell)

Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell) – accepting the budget estimate for 2016/17 –  proposed an increase in the precept of £2.60p which he said “equates to 5 pence a week increase in the precept on a Band D property”.  This, he said, would be “a 4.51% increase.”

Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Ward)

Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Ward)

Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Ward) said  “The problem is that these figures absolutely fine but we all know that the public never look at the figures – they look at the outcome – they look at how much their Council Tax Bill has gone up – which we know includes the Police Precept which is going to go up by probably 5% “. The Vale of Glamorgan Council – he said –  had yet to declare its proposed increase in Council Tax but it would also “probably be getting-on for that sort of figure” [5%] … and then of course our own increase” [4.51%] .

Cllr Ernest said he recognised that Penarth Council had underspent  – and that was admirable in terms of administration . He said “You might also argue why is it there is such a large underspend if last year we had a precept for that . The citizens of Penarth had to pay that amount of money – or else land-up in court” . Cllr Ernest agreed that  Penarth Council was  moving forward and had done so over a number of years.  The problem was that at a time of austerity, when Central Government and the Welsh Assembly was “asking us all to be cautious in our spend” . Councillors had to answer for that to the general public.  Cllr Ernest said he understood where councillors “were coming from on this” [in proposing the increased precept]  but  said it was “a hard one to put across to the people of Penarth” .

Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines)

Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines)

Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines) seconded Cllr Wilson’s proposal  for a 4.51% increase in the precept . He said “I think this council is ambitious. We have a number of things we want to do. What I would not want to see is to see is jeopardising  those ambitions . ”  Cllr Roberts said the proposed 4.51% rise in the precept was “frankly quite a modest increase” .

Cllr Philip Rapier (Labour St Augustines)

Cllr Philip Rapier (Labour St Augustines)

Cllr Philip Rapier (Labour St Augustines) said he strongly supported Cllr Wilson’s proposal. Frugality he said was a “difficult balance” but it had been achieved  – with ambition.He compared Penarth’s budgeting with that of the First Minister Carwyn Jones in the Welsh Labour Government.

Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell)

Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell)

Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell) said “I think the fact that we are staying so well within budget reflects well on all sides of the council”  particularly in view of the “austerity pressures which have been imposed upon us from Central Government ” and he was surprised that in his remarks to the council Cllr Ernest  had brought “austerity” to the attention of the council. Cllr Thomas said the “Event Cinema[ in the Paget Rooms] had been more successful than had been budgeted for and was something that “we should congratulate ourselves on as  being a success”.

Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward)

Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward)

Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward) said that much time had been spent in committees “looking at what we want to do as a council to be more ambitious and  deliver improved services . Inevitably this is going to cost us money – there’s no doubt about that “. Cllr Turner thought the budget that had been set would “tackle all of the issues that we talked about and at the end of it we will see a much better Penarth than we have at the moment” .

Cllr Clive Williams (Conservative Plymouth Ward)

Cllr Clive Williams (Conservative Plymouth Ward)

Cllr Clive Williams (Conservative Plymouth Ward)  said he didn’t disagree with Cllr Wilson’s proposed 4.51% increase . He said “We’re always in a cleft stick here because  we need to go forward –  but the other side of the coin  is that people already think the rates are too high”.

Penarth, Cllr Williams said,  suffered because the properties were such high-value compared with the Vale.  Cllr Williams said “Sometimes the Council Tax is one of the biggest bills  that someone has”. He saw the rationale for the proposed increase in the precept,  but having said that, he knew that the public would think that even a 1%   increase would “seem a burden as they already feel it is a high tax.”

Cllr Cuddy – responding – said that “We should try to relate to our own personal circumstances when the envelope comes through the letter-box”.

In the vote which followed, the motion to impose the new 4.51% increase in the Penarth Town Council precept was carried . No councillors voted against the proposal but – by PDN’s reckoning –  three failed to vote at all. Their abstensions were not formally noted.

 

 

 

 

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11 Responses to PENARTH COUNCIL APPROVES INFLATION-BUSTING 4.51% HIKE IN LOCAL PRECEPT

  1. Christopher David says:

    No increase is modest if its above the rate of inflation. What may seem modest now will look massive when compounded over (say) twenty years. Councillor Courtney is very capable of the maths- he will as he has, calculate the permutations admirably, its whether you consider the politics, non core spending and philosophy as correct that counts. Maybe you do. When our council taxes are spent wisely we get a lot for our money and at least we don’t have the £100,000 plus a year council manager leaches on Penarth Council. However Some lady bill payers wont be for out-turning.

    • lan Courtney says:

      Chris David is spot on to identify the decision to seek an increase in the precept comes down to choices and it is in excess of the rate of inflation. That after all is the nature of representative democracy and the platform that members of the Council are elected on. As PDN very fairly reflects there was a remarkable degree of unanimity about the last night’s contributions. This came about because all councillors have a shared ambition to improve the quality of life in Penarth. Of course if we were to fail then the electorate are entitled to show their frustration at the ballot box.

      • Willy Wonka says:

        With the world in financial meltdown, you and your cronies have decided to put the precept up by 5 to 10 times of inflation.

        The smart thing to do would have been to hold budget as is if, as you say, every year there is an under spend.

        You are part of the problem not part of the solution.

  2. AK says:

    Cllr Cuddy said that “as expressed in percentage terms, the increase sounds a great deal. In pure monetary terms it’s from about £6.00 to £10.00 – not weekly, not monthly but annually“.

    Seems like a bargain to me !

    • Willy Wonka says:

      But this is in addition to the Vale’s rise and the Police commissioner’s rise.

      We are being gouged by the bloated public sector.

      You got to love Count Courtney’s approach. If they consistently underspend then a) they don’t need it b) they should only approve a rise of 5%.

      Nice to see he has attended a council meeting in 2016, will probably be his only attendance this year looking at the records of last year.

      • lan Courtney says:

        I would like to respond to Willy Wonka since the person who chooses to use this ‘nom de plume’ makes some valid points. Collectively we should acknowledge the Council’s budget control procedures can be improved. The data presented last night suggests a consistent pattern going back over 5 years of outturn falling short of the original forecast. It is partially the consequence of estimates of staff costs being greater than the amount actually spent. In my opinion this illustrates the point the Council takes a responsible approach to the husbanding of Penarth precept payers money. Simply put we do not spend money just because we have budgeted for it. But we should all strive for greater accuracy in our forecasting.

        As for the assertion we are being “gouged by the bloated public sector” that is a matter of ideology and opinion and not fact.

        I appreciate the fact that Willy Wonka has the time and energy to be so well informed about my personal attendance record. Indeed records do show l attended less meetings than any other councillor last year. If this person was prepared to come out of the dark rather than hiding behind anonymity l would happily share with them my personal circumstances. These include the fact l have a day job which includes responsibilities beyond conventional office hours. I would also care to remind the person in question that as town councillors we give our time voluntarily. I can categorically inform them that all members of the Council are motivated to serve by a sense of public and civic duty to the welfare of Penarth and that includes myself.

  3. Ivor Bagman says:

    It wouldn’t be that much
    If they kept the pavements
    in good repair
    And spent much less on follies !!

    • Christopher David says:

      And in the case of the VOG & Cardiff the £100,000 to £200,000 + salary and benefit packages. The empire building public sector is out of control.

  4. JillKeenan says:

    With inflation currently at the lowest rate ever, perhaps we should expect a drop in charges. £10 per annum on a band D house does indeed sound manageable. Our Band H property, which is more than 120 years old, and needs constant repairs – of course, not included in the urban regeneration project – and costs a fortune for good tradesmen to upkeep, whilst adhering to the restrictions imposed in the Penarth conservation area. Our council tax bill is £2650 per annum, so, considerably more than a tenner a year increase. Where are we supposed to find this extra money from? Perhaps we ought to sell up and move to a Band D property.

  5. anne says:

    Need to spend some money on pavements, dropped kerbs, control people whose dogs poop on the pavement, replace bus stops and fix pot holes. They could stop wasting money pollarding trees.

  6. Mr Tim Gould says:

    Do these Councillors who quote the rise in cash terms think we are all stupid?
    “It only a groat per fortnight increase.”

    UK inflation 0.2%
    Penarth Precept rise 4.51%
    That’s 2255% the rate of inflation.

    I would like to be a millionaire but can’t be bothered to work, if only 1billion people could spare penny each, after all that’s not a lot to ask in cash terms!

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