Blakelaw parish council hikes up its precept by 242% – and is still asking people for more

A parish council with thousands of pounds in cash reserves is set to hit residents with another large tax demand.

Blakelaw and North Fenham Community Council issued a staggering 242% increase in its precept for 2014-15.

This saw the contribution of residents rise to £46.09 compared to the £13.47 for the previous year which resulted in its funds shooting up to £85,000.

Its parish councillors meet on Thursday to vote on a draft budget precept for 2015-16 that some predict could bring in a further £50,000.

While no figure has been confirmed, the contribution of residents is expected to be around the £25 mark. Although less than for 2014/15, it will still be way above that demanded of residents of neighbouring parish councils.

Fed up resident Andrew Smith, who lives at Druridge in North Fenham, said:

“We’ve had an increase of 242% and that increase brought in £85,000. If you add up the precepts for all the other five parish councils in Newcastle it only comes to £51,000.

“Where’s the realisation that things are still hard for people, and where’s the mandate to put that precept in when they’ve not consulted with residents?”

The parish council is one of six which operate in Newcastle, and while Blakelaw and North Fenham residents have seen significant increases, neighbouring Gosforth only charged its householders £3.96 a year – a 45p increase on the year before.

In Woolsington residents were charged £5.15, in Brunswick it was £12.11 and in Hazlerigg – the second most expensive parish council – the charge was £15.72 for the year 2014-2015 for a Band A property.

Mr Smith, who stood down from the parish council in 2011, believes the precept rise was linked to the Blakelaw Community Partnership, based off Binswood Avenue, which has been running since March 2013.

On Thursday this organisation finds out whether a £25,187 grant request has been approved – on top of £20,000 it received in the last financial year.

Mr Smith said: “The organisation must stand on its own two feet as the council can’t keep taking money from residents like it is at the moment.

“I’m certain that their grant will be bigger than many other parish precepts, which I find disgraceful.”

Chair of Blakelaw and North Fenham Community Council, Ann Keenan, said the £85,000 precept for 2014-15 had been a shock and what is proposed for this year will be much lower than the predicted £50,000.

Ann, who was not chair when the £85,000 precept was passed, said: “I can understand how people have felt. It was a large precept. I was shocked. There are reserves of £53,000 and that’s why we are going for a smaller precept this year.

“The money that the partnership got off the council this year was all for the children and young people of Blakelaw and North Fenham and on the community centre which is packed every night. Crime figures have reduced because of it.”

Glenn Pendleton, manager of the Blakelaw Ward Community Partnership said: “We brought in £37,000 in additional funding last year and we do not rely on the money from the precept to actually underpin our work.

“The money we get from the parish council was for children and young people’s work and we worked with 7000 children last year. We have been successful from a police point of view and have reduced crime and anti-social behaviour.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  06 Jan 2015

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