Grant plan is ‘a disgrace’

Have your say

TOWN councillors have slammed budget plans as a ‘disgrace’ that could see the authority miss out on more than £40,000.

Morpeth Town Council is finalising its budget for the new financial year, but members fear it is facing a shortfall of £41,387 after Northumberland County Council said it is unlikely to hand down the sum.

The row follows changes in council tax benefit administration introduced last April.

Households in receipt of the benefit were removed from the council tax paying base, with the Government providing grants to local authorities to compensate.

Last year, the county council passed on its grant proportionately to town and parish councils, but it has stated that the payment will not be repeated.

The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) is continuing to lobby the Government to try to ensure the grants are passed down.

Morpeth Town Council Finance and General Purposes Committee Chairman David Parker said: “We understand that the county council has decided not to pass on the money from the Government in relation to council tax benefit compensation.

“As it stands, we are in a situation as a local council where we have lost a significant amount of money and other councils in Northumberland have lost a great deal more.”

Member Les Cassie added: “If this decision is not retracted it is a disgrace that money that has been transferred from central government to the county council for this specific purpose is not being passed on.

“This is a big issue for this council, but it is a much bigger one for councils that have a lot of people claiming benefit. Councils that are most deprived are most likely to be hit.”

Northumberland County Council Deputy Leader Dave Ledger said: “Due to the short notice given by the Government in implementing changes to the council tax benefit system last year, Northumberland County Council did offer some financial support to parish and town councils for the financial year 2013/14.

“The council is continuing to receive major cuts to its Government grant funding and as a result has to make multi-million pound cuts over the coming years.

“To assist local councils with their financial planning, we did make it clear at the time that it would be very unlikely that the council would be unable to support them with funding in future years.

“This decision was made at a budget meeting of the council in February by the former administration. At a recent town and parish council liaison meeting this position was discussed and reaffirmed.”