Councillors vote down call for review on 'stealth' tax in parished areas of Northampton
The deputy leader of the borough council admitted he would love to get rid of a 'stealth tax' on parish council areas in Northampton... But it would cost the authority Â£800,000 a year.
Last night (April 24) the Liberal Democrat group at the Guildhall proposed a review of the "special expenses" charged to taxpayers in areas with a parish council in Northampton, such as Duston, Collingtree and Wootton.
Bills that dropped on the mat this month in some areas were nearly five per cent higher than last year - even though there are limits governing the amount a council can raise tax without holding a referendum.
The move means a band H bill in Duston this year has leapt by Â£139 from 2016/17.
But the motion was refused after a vote, even though deputy leader Councillor Phil Larratt (Con, East Hunsbury), admitted he felt the charges were unfair.
He said: "Special expenses are an issue I've been going on about for 10 years. It is a stealth tax introduced by the Labour admimistration in the 1990s and something we would love to abolish.
"But it would cost this council some Â£800,000 to do away with special expenses and we need to think of a way round it."
In fact he said the administration is already in the process of handing the maintained areas of land subject to the special expenses back to parish councils as a way of reducing the "stealth charge".
But the Liberal Democrat group was surprised to see only three votes in favour of their motion, despite a seeming endorsement from the deputy leader.
Councillor Sally Beardsworth (Lib Dem, Kingsthorpe) said: "The parish areas are being charged much more than the unparished areas
"People who haven't scrutinised their bill haven't realised the increase imposed on them.
"It really needs to be rethought it's totally unfair."
And Liberal Democrat member, Brian Hoare said the recent tax rise, set during the budget meeting in February, did not make the increase to parish council charges clear.
"I have concluded that this decision was taken behind closed doors with no opportunity for affected council tax payers to question the fairness," he said.