Rugby Tories are celebrating what they claim is the sixth successive year of no increase of Council Tax. They are obfuscating the truth: most households in Rugby will be paying more in Council Tax than they were 6 years ago.
Now, because Warwickshire County Council, and the Police & Crime Commissioner have put their charges up by about 2%, household bills are still going up across the town. But RBC and Mark Pawsey are not counting those changes, just pointing at Rugby Borough Council’s portion.
But even so, residents of Rugby town are facing an increase in the Council Tax that they pay towards the Borough as well. To more than they did six years ago.This is made up of two portions, the standard RBC contribution, and the “Rugby Town Area Special Expenses”.
In the dozens and dozens of surrounding Parishes, they pay the standard RBC contribution plus a Parish precept that varies from year to year. And this precept is determined by what Parish Councils get from the Borough, so there is accountable, direct democratic oversight by the Parish Councils
But most households (and most taxpayers) live in the ‘unParished’ town area. So while the standard RBC portion of council tax has stayed the same for the past three years, the total amount charged has been increasing due to the “Special Expenses”.
In 2012/13 this was £63.14 for a Band D property. It will in 2015/16 be 66.89 for the same property. An increase of 3.75% over the period.
In fact, the total Council Tax going to Rugby Borough alone is higher in 2015/16 than it was six years ago for all bands.
But ask anyone how these “Special Expenses” are calculated and it all goes quiet. What I have seen is that in 2011 it was decided to include “Town Centre Management” in them. Interestingly it is since that time that the increases have come.
But Rugby Town centre is not just for Rugby town residents – it is used by people from across the Borough, with increasing importance as more local businesses struggle in rural areas.
I do know that RBC pays Rugby First, the local Business Improvement District (BID) company for town centre management. I also know that Rugby First sets a premium on local business rates for the town centre, and this BID premium is one of the highest in the country.
Without a Town Council, or Parishes, we can only rely on the Borough Council to oversee spending. But how do we know we are getting value for money?