The last four years

I dug out my old bills. The place we were renting from 2009 was Band D, so I have been able to find the correct figures for all of the years covering the Council Tax freeze. What I can see is that there has been a small variation each year

RBC base amount (charged to all households across the Borough)

2009/10: £128.772010/11: £128.59   -£0.18
2011/12: £128.94  +£0.35
2012/13: £128.94   no change
2013/14: £127.67  -£1.27

Net change after 4 years: -£1.10

Town Area precept (charged to households not in a Parish Council area)

2009/10: £64.72
2010/11: £64.58  -£0.14
2011/12: £63.42  -£1.16
2012/13: £63.14  -£0.28
2013/14: £66.27  +£3.13

Net change after 4 years: +£1.55

Total Council Tax for RBC in Town Area:

2009/10: £193.49
2010/11: £193.17  -£0.32
2011/12: £192.36  -£0.81
2012/13: £192.08  -£0.28
2013/14: £193.94  +£1.86

Net change after 4 years: +£0.45

Read the rest of this entry »

@RugbyBC replies…

Today I chased up the Rugby Borough Council twitter feed guy (as I write some of my tweets are to the right, but I suspect they won’t be there for long), and got a series of replies:

Now, there are two things here. The tweeter for RBC is apologising for answering my question (see previous post) incorrectly. I asked specifically if the Town precept would go up, they said it wouldn’t, but it has. That looks like being a simple error, and I accept the apology and understand how it happened.

However, I still believe that the RBC press release, which I also quoted before, was incorrect in that it put the average increase down to Parish Council precepts. Clearly the increase is down to the Town Area charge.

That it appeared in all three budgets is interesting. To explain, this means it featured in the Budget that was passed, based on the Conservative administration’s proposals, and also on the amended budgets put forward by the opposition Labour and Liberal Democrat groups. I suspect that it because what usually happens is that a draft budget is worked up by the council officers along with the Cabinet, and this is what leads to the Conservative group proposal. The opposition can move amendments to it, or create a whole budget from scratch. They usually do the former, picking up particular items to add or remove (or change/delay).

What this tells me is that it’s not necessarily a political decision how to set the Town Area Precept, but that it’s more likely to be part of the more detailed work done by the officers. Obviously it is still passed by the full council as part of the budget, but it seems to be regarded as not being a headline and more of a low level detail.

What concerns me is that this means there is less oversight and accountability about how it is set than there is for a Parish precept. Maybe in previous years it went the other way – the RBC base amount going up, the Town Area precept going down – but that still doesn’t make it right.

I checked last year’s bill. The RBC portion remained the same, and the Town Area precept went down by 0.4% (28p for a Band D). I didn’t notice that because it was so small, and there was a larger increase due to the Police Authority at the same time.

The point is, that the precept for ‘exclusive’ services in the town is determined by Rugby Borough Council, and forms a significant part of the Council Tax that is earmarked for RBC. I will see what I can find out concerning the history of the precept (and the base amount), and how it compares to a ‘four year freeze’

Addendum 19 March – the original text had the reduction for the previous year as ‘about 2p’, which was meant to be ‘about 25p’. The exact figure has now been put in – 28p for a Band D)

Pave the Earth?

At last month’s budget setting meeting, Rugby Borough Council decided (due to a Tory majority) to spend about £500,000 on getting designs for pedestrianising more of the town centre (basically along North Street where the bus stops and taxi rank currently sit) and consulting local people and businesses on them.

While town centre pedestrianisation schemes may not be the most controversial subject in the world, what I think should be addressed is the question of whether it is really a good idea to spend loads of money on this now. Read the rest of this entry »

When a Council Tax freeze is a 1% increase

The local Tories have been claiming that the Council Tax has been frozen by Rugby Borough Council for the fourth year in a row. For example, Cllr Michael Stokes  made the claim in a post attacking his former colleague Howard Roberts. Our MP Mark Pawsey wanted to use it to suck up to David Cameron, and tweeted this:

Regrettably not called at PMQs so unable to refer to Rugby’s Council Tax freeze for 4th yr in a row

— Mark Pawsey (@MarkPawsey) February 27, 2013

And the Borough Council’s press release is quite clear:

Rugby Borough Council’s share of residents’ council tax bills is to be frozen for the fourth year in a row, after councillors set the authority’s budget for 2013/14 on Tuesday (26 February).

The freeze means that the average charge for a Band D property will be £187.88 for the year – a small increase of 70p due to increases in parish council precepts.

The problem is that this is not true. For most of the Borough’s households the RBC part of the bill has risen by 1%

What has actually happened is the following: Read the rest of this entry »

Birch Ward

But, seeing as I’m back, here’s my thoughts on the recent announcement that one of the wards at St Cross Hospital is about to close:

Birch Ward’s shut down at the end of the month is appalling for the town. There hasn’t been any real consultation. It seems that some people heard about it before others – Jerry Roodhouse and Mark Pawsey were quick to comment, but the local PCT – who commission medical procedures at St Cross for the people of the town were not (so I am told) asked for their opinion.

The Tories will blame the last government, and their pals in the Lib Dems will play the same card. However, the pressures on hospital trusts are being imposed by this government despite promises to ‘ringfence’ the NHS. On top of taking a hard line on budgets – causing one hospital to have been transferred to the private sector where the company itself has suggested that care may suffer – they are pressing ahead with the plan to impose a massive restructure. even though the Health Bill has not been passed yet, they have closed agencies and started to spend some of the £3billion that the reorganisation will cost.

Still, the local Tories and Lib Dems can do something. They can work with the Rugby Labour councillors who have called for UHCW to reconsider the decision, and they can join the calls for a Judicial Review.

Police cuts… Crime rises… Who could predict it?

I know it’s been ages since my last post. I’ve been feeling disillusioned with the internet and bogging of late, and have been pretty busy in real life, so let it slip.

But I saw this today that just shows how the Coalition Government’s cuts may be having a directly negative effect:
Police departures led to surge in crime (Rugby Observer)

Basically, Warwickshire Police are faced with having to make massive cuts. To help them manage, they moved experienced officers from Rugby to Nuneaton to cover gaps. But after that happened, the incidence of home burglaries in Rugby leapt up by about 75%. So they ended up having to bring some of them back again.

Which is fine for Rugby, for now, in that the effect was pretty quick and crime went down again. But it strikes me that other parts of the County will be lacking full cover as a result.

When the Tories (backed by their yellow pals) went for 20% cuts in policing, they claimed it could be done without affecting the front line and that predictions of an effect on crime was ‘scaremongering’. But the evidence suggests that, as senior officers themselves said at the time, the cuts are forcing the Police to make tough decisions, with some areas losing vital cover.

Rugby Town Centre – missing out

80m a year going out of Town Centre

I saw this headline when I walked past a copy of the Rugby Advertiser at the weekend, and now that they have put the report up on their website I had a chance to read it properly.

Essentially, the suggestion is that ‘more affluent shoppers’ are not catered for. I’m not sure what that means, really. Yes there are a number of cheap shops, a growing number of charity shops, and the main in-town supermarkets are Asda and Morrisons, which compete on price rather than quality.

What I find, however, is that Rugby lacks mid-market shops and certain sectors. We have one independent bookshop, Hunts. Read the rest of this entry »

Mast Site plans

Last night I went to the Eastlands & Hillmorton Community Forum meeting at the Hillmorton school. These are organised to bring together the County Council, Borough Council and Police to discuss issues with local people. Every three months, for example, the local beat officers present updates on their work and there’s a discussion about the three areas they should prioritise for the next three months.

There were a lot of people there who wanted to talk about the proposals for development to the East of the town, on the old radio mast sites. Read the rest of this entry »

Where did that £50K go?

Back in Spring, the Borough Council agreed their new budget. Having rejected several ways to try and help local businesses in the recession (and so ending successful schemes), the council decided to allocate £50,000 to renew the Christmas lights in the Town Centre.

This evening I walked around the town centre, and couldn’t see much difference between this year and last year. The Clock Tower still has its lame strips of lights about half-way up.

So did the money get spent? And on what? Was it more worthwhile than grants to help shops improve their frontage, or rate rebates to incentivise new business?

National Cuts, Local Effects

Each of the three main local news sites covering Rugby has an article pertinent to the round of cutbacks we are all going to be experiencing.

The Rugby Observer reports that the Police Station in town will only be open to the public from the front desk for 12 hours a day, starting next Monday (1 Nov). The Cov/Warks Telegraph highlights a study which suggests that between them, Coventry and Warwickshire will be losing 16,000 public sector jobs with nearly 40,000 more in the private sector put at risk. The report suggests that Warwickshire could be badly hit, and towns like Rugby and Stratford have vulnerable private firms.

Mind you, on the other side, the Advertiser brings news that Rugby Borough Council is hoping to replace the Ken Marriott Leisure Centre with a new facility. This was covered at the Cabinet meeting last week. There it was agreed to commit £200,000 of capital to investigating tenders for the project.

Now, as much as it would be great to have a new Leisure Centre, it seems a bit incongruous to spent a six-figure sum on a project that might not even go ahead, let alone the likely millions that the full build would require, at a time when the Government and councils are cutting spending.

At the same meeting, the Cabinet discussed (I say ‘discussed’, it was more nodded through) a report on the money stuck in Icelandic banks. Rugby had about £3M in two banks. Landsbanki, with about £1M is agreeing to pay back 95% of the money over the next eight years – as long as the overall plan is not successfully challenged by other creditors. In terms of lost interest and depreciation, this would represent a loss of about £400,000 by the time all the money is returned.

The other bank, Glitnir, had the remaining £2M, but the offer there is only 38%. The council are challenging that one, of course, but if it goes that way, the end result means that about half of the original £3M would be lost.

With that background, what are the Council going to use to pay for a new Leisure Centre?

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