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Tax increase plan leads to vociferous response
Ilkley Parish Council’s proposed precept rise of 22 per cent has been branded “the wrong call at the wrong time” by the town’s MP.
Ilkley MP Kris Hopkins said the above-inflation rise would generate deep anger across the town.
The planned increase has also been attacked by Labour candidates due to contest this year’s Bradford Council election and the next General Election.
Sandy MacPherson, who is to contest Ilkley Parish Council chairman Mike Gibbons’ Bradford Council seat, and Keighley and Ilkley constituency Labour candidate, John Grogan, said parish councillors should be exercising more financial discipline.
The Conservative-led parish council last week agreed to increase its annual charge for the average household in town to just over £24, an increase of more than 22 per cent.
The Council’s overall budget for 2014 to 2015 is to rise from almost £154,000 to £185,600 – with £20,000 set aside for Tour de France spending, £7,000 for the drafting of a Neighbourhood Plan and a £7,000 rise in the Council’s Awards and Projects pot.
Mr Hopkins said: “I have always been opposed to high precept or council tax increases, particularly given the ongoing pressures on people’s pockets.
“Ilkley Parish Council is rightly held in high esteem, and its members have a well-earned reputation for using public resources wisely.
“But this is the wrong call at the wrong time. Council tax more than doubled under Labour, and the Conservative-led Government has been determined to keep council tax and precept rises to a minimum.
“A proposed precept rise of 22 per cent demonstrates contempt for local residents and will generate deep anger across the town, particularly amongst those on fixed incomes. ”
Mr MacPherson, of Ben Rhydding, said: “This is a very big rise given the pressures many people are currently under with a cost of living crisis affecting many ordinary Ilkley families.
“I really think our local Parish councillors should be exercising more financial discipline.”
He added: “I also look forward to debating these issues robustly with Ilkley Parish Council chairman councillor Mike Gibbons during this year’s local election campaign when he will be defending his seat on Bradford Council for the Conservative Party.
“From what I can see he and his party colleagues preach austerity at City Hall but are rather less keen on the idea here in Ilkley.
“The irony is that if such an increase was being proposed by Bradford Council there would by law have to be a district-wide referendum.”
Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for the Ilkley and Keighley seat, John Grogan, said he noted part of the reason for the rise was one-off expenditure on the Tour de France.
Mr Grogan said: “Many people have contacted me over the weekend saying at the very least they would like an assurance that this increase will be reversed next year when the parish councillors set their final budget before facing the electorate in elections in May 2015.
“They noted that a very similar increase some years ago was attributed to expenditure in connection with the Queen’s Jubilee but no reduction in council tax followed the year afterwards.”
Chairman of Ilkley Parish Council, Coun Gibbons defended the rise, saying: “With an election due soon, I can understand the politically-based comments from some quarters, but Ilkley Parish Council is setting a precept that it feels is required to operate and benefit all the people of Ilkley.
“Nothing is paid to councillors and the vast majority of funds are returned to the community through awards and projects, events and the enhancement of public amenities.”
He added: “Ilkley’s is a very modest precept when compared with many other parish and town councils across the country.”
Coun Gibbons went on to say the increase would be approximately £4 per year for the average four-person property, or about 8p per week.
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