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Leicestershire & Rutland
Association of Local Councils

Supporting Local Councils in Leicestershire & Rutland

Jubilee Hall

Chief Executive: Jake Atkinson
Jubilee Hall, Stadon Road
Anstey, Leicester LE7 7AY

Tel: 0116 235 3800

URGENT - 2018-19 Precept Consultation

Posted: Wed, 27 Sep 2017 21:43 by Jake Atkinson

Local councils will be aware that under the Localism Act 2011, Government has powers to make an annual decision on whether to introduce automatic precept referendums where they deem increases in local council precepts to be 'excessive'. The decision includes what threshold would apply for triggering referendums and to which councils this trigger would be applied. Although these referendums have been applied to other types of local authorities, Government has threatened to apply them to local councils but, to date, has not done so.

This could be all about to change with the publication of The 2018/19 Local Government Finance Settlement: Technical Consultation Paper which was published this month.

Last year, a similar consultation threatened to define principles for applying automatic referendums for the highest spending local councils. The proposal was "that referendum principles are introduced for town and parish councils whose Band D precept is higher than that of the lowest charging district council for 2016/17 (£75.46), and which have a total precept for 2016/17 of at least £500,000, while taking account of transfers of responsibilities, and that consideration is given to the extension of referendums to all local precepting authorities."

No such proposed limitation to larger councils is referred to in the consultation this year. Instead it declares: "Last year, the Government issued a challenge to town and parish councils to demonstrate restraint when setting precept increases that are not a direct result of taking on additional responsibilities, and to make precept decisions more transparent to local tax-payers. The continuation of this position in 2018-19 is contingent upon the Government receiving clear evidence of how the sector is responding to this challenge. The Government expects parishes, in setting their precepts, to consider all available options to mitigate the need for council tax increases, including the use of reserves where they are not already earmarked for particular purposes or for "invest to save" projects which will lower on-going revenue costs. Any revised proposals will be set out at the time of the provisional local government finance settlement later in the year."

All councils are potentially affected by the outcome of this consultation and will wish to consider making a response to this important consultation on fundamental aspects of their financial arrangements. Councils are reminded that there is no mention of Government limiting this consideration to a particular size of council.

If referendums are introduced at any point, it would be the first time a Government has interfered with the ability of local councils to determine for themselves what money should be raised for the local community. Even if the community has been fully consulted and wants an increase, the taxpayer would be forced to pay for the additional cost of an automatic referendum in order to be able to raise its own money for its own needs, based on a blanket threshold set centrally by Government.

The LAIS briefing accessible using the link at the very bottom of this article advises you about the consultation and provides some of the points that have been raised in objecting to the application of automatic precept referendums to assist those formulating responses to the consultation.

The consultation can be responded to via an online survey at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/lgsettlement1819 via email to LGFConsultation@communities.gsi.gov.uk or in writing to Roger Palmer, Department for Communities and Local Government, 2nd Floor, Fry Building, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF.

Date: Consultation closes 11.45pm on 26 October 2017

Tags: LRALC, Guidance, Financial, consultation, precept