Taxpayers will have to pay a little extra

A SMALL rise in the council tax precept has been agreed for Ponteland.

The town council total for 2014/15 was set at £358,815, with a transfer of £2,245 from reserves to produce a gross precept to the county council of £361,060.

This is an increase of 2.9 per cent on the Band D equivalent figure. These householders will pay £1.86 more over the year.

The money from the reserves will help to pay for the authority’s range of ‘wishlist’ items.

A report to a recent full council meeting said: “We have to determine what we consider to be reasonable for this year and for the future.

“We also need to be satisfied that the amount provided for the wishlist is appropriate and whether it is appropriate to transfer some monies from the reserves to augment this provision.”

The main factor for the increase is the loss of a local grant to make up a shortfall that was caused by changes to the way the council tax benefits system is administered.

The new system came into force in April when the Government passed on responsibility for administration to principal councils, including Northumberland County Council.

Households that received council tax benefit were removed fully or partly from the council tax-paying base and this meant parish and town council precepts had to be paid for by a smaller number of householders.

To help compensate for this reduction, the Government provided councils with a grant. However, in Northumberland, this grant is estimated to be 12 to 13 per cent lower than the costs of the new scheme.

The county council passed on the funding gap proportionately to the smaller authorities to cover the shortfall for 2013/14, but at the time officers warned that it was a one-off and that has turned out to be the case.

The town council’s report said: “Last year the precept was fixed at £353,980, but because we received a grant of £4,349 to offset the reduction in the tax base caused by the deletion of homes receiving housing benefit from the county council, it was reduced to £349,631.

“This year, the county council has stated that it will not pass on our share of the Government grant and therefore just to retain the status quo, we would have to increase the precept by £4,349, which is 1.2 per cent per year per household and an increase of £0.81 over the year.

“In addition, the tax base this year has reduced by 0.2 per cent, which is about 0.3 per cent on the rate or an extra £0.15 per year.”

Earlier in the meeting, an update was provided for Ponteland’s new detailed street maps.

Hundreds of large illustrated folded documents will soon be available from dispensers and other outlets in the area to showcase its main buildings and attractions, shops, services and facilities.

Mayor Peter Cowey said that work relating to the back of the maps was still on-going and councillors were asked to submit any comments regarding the proposed design by the end of January before the information is sent off to the company for printing.