Town and parish councils hit out at budget 'mess'
A NEW way of setting local government budgets has sparked confusion among town and parish councils across the district.
Two options were handed down from central government on how parish and town councils should set their precept - the figure added to council tax bills to fund local services.
They can either accept or not accept a grant from central government but there are advantages and disadvantages to both options.
In Stonehouse and Minchinhampton, councillors were concerned that if they accepted the grant - administered by Stroud District Council - their precept would be reduced by the amount of grant it receives.
Although this would reduce the burden on taxpayers, the disadvantage is that council precepts could be capped at this lower figure in future years in line with Government cuts.
Both councils decided not to accept the grant on the basis that the money would be held by SDC to be used for future projects in their parish.
Speaking at a full council meeting of Stonehouse Town Council on Monday, January 21 mayor Chris Brine said: "When setting the precept the town council has to decide the amount they believe is enough to provide all the services we want for the people of Stonehouse.
"Not accepting the grant means we can still call on the grant when we need to use it but we haven't had to lower our precept in order to claim it."
Stonehouse Town Council set its precept for the upcoming year at £203,940 - a £6,000 increase from last year.
For the average Band D council taxpayer this will be an increase of £1 over the whole year.
Clerk of Minchinhampton Parish Council Diana Wall, said: "It has been such a mess. We have all had to become experts in finance overnight. Trying to get your head around something at such short notice is ridiculous."
On Monday, January 28, councillors in Minchinhampton set their precept at £50,000 - the same as last year.
Members of Nailsworth Town Council also criticised the clarity of the scheme at their latest meeting on Tuesday, January 15.
Stroud Town Council accepts government grant
STROUD Town Council has decided to accept the grant of more than £60,000 from the district council to compensate for a shortfall in funding resulting from central government cuts to the welfare budget, writes Chris Warne.
The authority faced a choice of either taking the grant from SDC for the next financial year or asking council taxpayers to pay 22 per cent more to maintain services.
Town councillors decided they could not ask residents to stump up an additional £60,000 to plug the hole in their budget created by the Government's welfare reforms.
The gap in the town council's budget was created by the Coalition's decision to scrap council tax benefit and replace it with a new system of localised council tax support.
Under the new scheme, funds provided by central government have been reduced by around 10 per cent, with Stroud District Council effectively losing £670,000.
Stroud Town Council unanimously agreed to accept the grant from SDC and set its precept for 2013/14 at a meeting on Monday, January 28.
An average Band D council taxpayer will now pay £106.28 for town council services in 2013/14, an increase of £9.60 over the whole year.