The annual general meeting of the National Association of Local Councils next week is to discuss an emergency motion urging the Government to take stronger action to ensure £9 million of funding is passed on to local communities.
Figures published this week reveal £9 million of Government funding aimed at compensating parish councils for localised council tax support arrangements is not being passed on to them, described as ‘simply unacceptable’ by NALC, and whose ‘sovereign body’ will debate the issue in London on Wednesday.
The Department for Communities and Local Government has published data on the total and individual amount of funding passed on to parish councils by billing authorities – district, unitary and metropolitan councils – showing parishes have been short-changed by around £9 million.
NALC’s analysis of the statistics for their AGM shows that:
£3.3 billion was given by Government to billing authorities in 2013/14, with £40 million specifically earmarked for parish and town councils; but only £39 million was actually passed on, with ten councils passing on nothing at all
The latest figures show the position worsening in 2014/15 with over 30 councils defying instructions from Government ministers to devolve the £40 million and choosing to pass on nothing at all, with scores more reducing the amount given to grassroots councils in their area, passing on only £31 million – leaving parishes £9m short
Chairman of the National Association of Local Councils, Cllr Ken Browse, said: “To say I am disappointed at these figures would be an understatement – I’m gob smacked. For communities to be short-changed to the tune of £9m is simply unacceptable.
Right at the start of this process NALC, County Associations and parish councils advised Government not to mess about with the golden thread of parish financing, but they chose to ignore us all. We never wanted to have to rely on an element of Government funding, until these changes happened, our work to improve our areas was 100% funded by local people.
While some billing authorities are doing the right thing and passing on funding to parishes in full, the majority are reducing the amount given out, but shockingly the number passing on nothing has trebled, which just isn’t acceptable.
Relationships between councils are being strained, damaged and undermined, this is overshadowing the many examples of good, effective relationships and joint working between the tiers of local government. Many parish and town councils are being forced to reduce spending on services, cut services altogether and/or increase their precept to meet shortfalls in funding as a result of these new arrangements.
With all due respect to the Local Government Minister, a letter from him telling billing authorities to pass money on just isn’t good enough, it hasn’t worked before and won’t work in the future. We need tougher action with Government identifying council tax support funding in the 2015/16 financial settlement coupled with the introduction of statutory guidance. Or Government could fund our councils directly.
Representatives of the England’s 9,000 parish and town councils will gather at our Annual General Meeting next week and I fully expect them to back our call for tougher action by the Government to ensure our communities do not miss out.”
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