What is a “Precept”?
A Precept is the amount of money that a council demands each year from the taxpayers.
The precept for Letchworth Parish Council gets added to your Council Tax bill and is collected by North Herts District Council along with your normal Council Tax.
You may have noticed that Letchworth Council Tax bills have got somewhat higher over the last four years, since the inception of the Parish Council in 2005.
In the first four years, up to June 2009, the first set of councillors managed to add a whopping £1.5 million to the Council Tax bills of Letchworth residents (making it one of the most expensive parish councils in the country).
In all that time, those councillors only managed to give out £116,000 of that money in grants to good causes (less than 8%).
HELP saves £½ million per year
Now that HELP has been democratically elected to run the Parish Council this extra burden can be removed from the people of Letchworth.
True to their elected mandate, the HELP councillors have now produced a budget for the coming financial year (starting April 2010) which slashes the previous £½ million precept down to zero.
Due to bureaucratic and legal reasons, the parish council must continue to run until at least 2013 before the councillors can request its formal abolition.
Until that time, HELP councillors will run the parish council in a minimum spending state, whilst complying with all legal and regulatory requirements.
The HELP councillors' budget for the coming year comprises approximately £10,000, to keep it compliant with its legal requirements, and a contingency fund of approximately £40,000, which is not anticipated to be used.
This money can be drawn from the current reserves which remain in the parish council's bank account, being left-over from the vast precepts levied by the previous set of councillors.
In 2013 the people of Letchworth will have the opportunity to democratically re-assert their continued desire to have the parish council abolished, by re-electing a majority HELP council. We hope that soon after that, the HELP led parish council will be able to request a Community Governance Review with recommendation for abolition. It will then be up to North Herts District Council to carry out the review and decide whether to abolish Letchworth Parish Council.
In the meantime, the HELP councillors' manifesto, as democratically elected by the people of Letchworth, is to aim to be a non-spending council. In the event of abolition, we anticipate that it will be up to North Herts District Council to re-allocate the remaining assets of the parish council, including the bank funds. It is hoped that those funds may be distributed to local good causes, or otherwise shared out in some fair manner.
Irrespective of that reserve which may be tied up until 2013, it may be reassuring to remember that every year there is a non-spending HELP council (or no parish council at all) there is a council tax saving of over £½ million for Letchworth which might otherwise be being levied by those previous councillors who were democratically removed from office at the ballot box in June 2009.