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)
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:
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
The ‘Freeze’ has never been a true freeze. Rather, it has actually often been a small fall. Which is great, and explains why no-one in the Town area has likely complained much about it. I can’t get parish precepts for before 2011 as the RBC website doesn’t seem to keep Full Council minutes for more than 2 years, so I don’t know what has been happening to those over the same period – it is likely that they are more volatile, especially in small parishes where even a relatively small change to the total budget would have a significant effect on the household precepts.
So perhaps I am being churlish to complain that this time it has gone up. However, the increase in the Town Area rate this year has more than wiped out all of the falls for the previous three years, and similarly the fall in the base rate has more than wiped out the small increase beforehand.
More pertinently, the net change for people in the Town Area is the largest swing of all years, and it’s an increase that more than reverses all previous declines.
Maybe this is fair. But it still isn’t particularly clear how these rates are set to move around when the Council is claiming a freeze.
I still bear in mind that regardless of what the two rates are called, they are set by, and spent by, Rugby Borough Council. We can be told that our taxes have frozen for four years, but find that they are now higher than four years ago, and yet when we ask why, it’s basically “because” – I can see statements that the Town Area precept is charged for certain things, but I can’t see why the amount has gone up (or down) – the RBC budget doesn’t seem to split its spending to show what is covered by the precept and what is not.
The Parish Council precepts are set by them (although a fair amount will depend on what RBC does for them). For an example of how accountable a Parish Council can be, check the Dunchurch website – here is a page where you can look at their meeting minutes. In any of the ordinary meetings you can see that every single cheque is accounted for.
I don’t expect that level of detail, but an explanation of exactly what is used to set the Town Area precept, and why it has gone up would go a long way to improving RBC’s accountability on this.