Town and Parish Councillors across the Cotswolds are angry and confused by the Liberal Democrats decision to pass on local election costs.
Council Leader Joe Harris and Deputy Leader Mike Evemy were forced to apologise to Town and Parish Councillors for a mismanaged trail of emails and bad data, which were sent ‘in error’ to local councillors. This farcical U-turn led to two on-line consultations being quickly scheduled, but so close to Christmas, only 27 parish clerks out of about 500 were able to attend.
Local election costs have been absorbed by CDC under the Conservative administration, to enable them to hold contested or by-elections whenever it was necessary. Despite appeals for further consultation the scheme was passed by a unanimous vote of LibDem Cabinet councillors and will be phased-in as a concession.
At the 16 February Council budget meeting, the Liberal Democrat administration voted against a Conservative amendment to reverse the decision, one Councillor claiming that is is beneficial to charge more Council Tax via parish precepts because it 'hits their pocket' and 'they can well afford to pay a great deal more'.
Cllr Tony Berry, Conservative Group leader says: ‘Town & Parish Councils are dismayed. People are already suffering extraordinary pressures on their finances and there is uncertainty over the ongoing pandemic. This will hit residents in their pockets when they can least afford it. Several Town and Parish Councils have written directly to the Leader, but despite this the administration are ignoring them and ploughing on with this ill-judged money grab.’
Cllr David Cunningham (Con) says: 'They claim that this change is about accountability of Town & Parish Councils, but have slipped it in to their budget as a line item on a budget saving proposal. A saving of less than 0.5% of the total over 4-years. By implementing it after local councils had already set their precepts, it leaves locals in an awkward position should the Secretary of State decide to put a cap on precept increases - a piece of legislation that the LibDems were oblivious to. Many councils could be forced to raid reserves. This attitude shows just how out of touch this administration really is when it comes to the needs of residents.'