Rainy day funds could ease impact of tax rise

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FUNDS saved for a rainy day are being used to try and mitigate the impact of a council tax precept rise for Pegswood residents.

But they will still be facing an increase of up to £30,000 in their bill because of the special expenses that will be imposed on it by the county council.

This follows moves by Northumberland County Council to transfer the responsibility for Pegswood Cemetery and the Welfare Park and Pavilion to the parish from next year.

Even though the parish councillors will ask the unitary authority to run and maintain these facilities in 2013/14, the change being imposed means that smaller councils across Northumberland will have to pay for these types of services.

It was reported by Pegswood Clerk Kevin Cassie at a meeting on Monday evening that the proposed precept is currently £88,890 – up 6.6 per cent on 2012/13.

He said there are areas where it will need to spend more than the current financial year, not including the services transferred from the county council, such as an estimated £1,200 for the elections in May and increases in staff and running costs.

“In recognition of the need to make the precept rise as low as possible from our end, the plan at the moment is to take about £30,000 from our reserves,” added Mr Cassie.

“This is an important and necessary step because the special expenses will have a major impact.

“The concern we have at the moment is that the county council has yet to provide the detailed information we need about the costs involved with running the cemetery, pavilion and playing fields.

“We’ve had no figures from the officers about maintenance, for example, and so we can only guess the amounts we will be charged. It could be as much as an extra £25,000 when everything is added together.”

Pegswood Parish Council Vice-Chairman Julie Stephenson said: “I think we’ve done the best we can in the circumstances, particularly when we’re unfairly being charged rates by the county council for the services we’re getting from them.”

Coun David Woodard said the increase may be reduced a little by the fact that there are more properties in the parish to share the precept.

Meanwhile, the authority has awarded grants for 2013/14 to four organisations.

Pegswood Community Hub will receive £5,000 to help fund its services and activities for residents of all ages, as well as building maintenance, and £3,500 will be given to Pegswood Allotments Association to support a proposed fencing project and administration costs.

A total of £1,500 will go to the Castle Morpeth Disability Association for its handyman service, which currently benefits 138 people who live in Pegswood, and £500 will be allocated to Pegswood with Bothal WI to assist with hall booking and speaker costs.