Councillors vote to lobby against precept bill

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Stowmarket Town Council has voted unanimously to lobby against a Government bill that could make it difficult for smaller councils to increase their income.

The Precept Referendums Bill would mean that a local referendum would be held if parish share of council tax is increased by more than two percent.

Cllr Duncan Macpherson, who chaired the meeting, said: “Councils don’t always want to increase local taxes, but with inflation running well above two percent, the long term effect of this would be to destroy the ability of small councils to take on local projects to help voluntary groups, and it would cut their contribution to the local economy.

“It’s crazy that a group of Tory MPs should attack rural councils in this way.”

Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, Green and Independent councillors at the meeting voted unanimously to lobby MPs David Ruffley, Therese Coffey and Secretary of State Eric Pickles against the bill.

The Suffolk Association of Local Councils issued a paper following the introduction of the bill saying it would ‘seriously undermine’ the ability of local councils to respond to the localism agenda, to help communities become more self-reliant and to deliver or support valued services which may be cut by local authorities.

Town councillor Suzanne Britton said: “Local people will wonder why they voted in the local elections when Conservative MPs want to make them vote all over again whenever the council tackles on a new project.

“No wonder local councillors of all parties think it’s a daft idea.”