Row continues as Desborough Town Council sets its budget

Council tax.

Council tax.

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The long-running Desborough Town Council saga took another twist this week as rivals clashed over the budget announcement.

The council has set a balanced budget for next year with 99 per cent of the income coming from a precept of £349,700.

Projects include a new skate park and new car park, which has infuriated the newborn minor party Independents for Desborough.

Kevin O’Brien, leader of Independents for Desborough, said: “Since the current members were elected, Desborough residents have been paying £958 a day for over-estimated projects allowing Desborough Town Council to move funds into general reserves.

“It has taken almost twelve months for Desborough Town Council to inform the public that an unconsulted skatepark will cost its residents £125,000 - all of which is funded by residents.

“Desborough Town Council have failed to inform residents that we will now also need to fund leasing the land and provide supervision and ongoing maintenance where the skatepark is to be placed.

“Desborough residents will be forced into adding a further £80,000 into a proposed car park to add to an undisclosed sum, gained through the precept in 2016/17.

“We are also having to fund a pedestrian crossing (£25,000) and a one way system (£35,000) which are the obligations of Northants County Council - not Desborough Town Council, yet, the NCC representative for local roads is the Desborough Town Council chairperson.

“Without parish or town councils such as Desborough’s continuing to manipulate this council tax loophole, Kettering Council would not have been in the position to declare no council tax rises last week.

“The budget is also mistaken in that it states ‘salaries’.

“This should read ‘salary’ and applies to the sole employee. The same role two years ago was paid £17,000 - now somehow it attracts £56,000.

“‘Independents for Desborough’ persist and will continue with a campaign against the mismanagement of Desborough Town Council and the manipulation of taxation via the precept.

“The introduction of a new ‘Vexatious Policy’ has solely been introduced to restrict or eliminate fair, challenging approaches to council.

“We strongly advise Desborough Town Council not to enter into any contracts for more than two years burdening the next 12 members with their financial legacy.”

Cllr Allan Matthews, chair of Desborough Town Council, strongly opposed IfD’s comments.

He said: “Desborough Town Council has been working, for over 12 months, with specialists and a landowner for the provision of a fantastic new multi-wheeled sports facility for the residents of our town.

“Negotiations for a peppercorn rent, and on-going maintenance of this facility, are in the final stages and the specialist contractor has been appointed to build the multi wheeled sports facility.

“The reference to obtaining “no grants” is incorrect. For the two years 2015/16 and 2016/17 this council received grants amounting to over £35,000 from external sources.

“It is true that no grants are shown on the 2017/18 budget, as the year has not started we do not claim credit for grants until they are received.

“Establishing a new car park, in a town which has precious few off road parking facilities, is both time consuming and expensive.

“We have appointed a professional practice to undertake a site and feasibility survey on land owned by another local authority.

“Any money raised for this project, which is not spent this year, will be placed into reserves to fund the [future] construction and legal costs of this project.”

Cllr Matthews also hit out at claims that the precept was being used as a way of raising money.

He added: “Regarding the 2017/18 Budget lines, it is misleading to state that precepts are a back door method of raising funds from homeowners.

“Apart from external grants, the legitimate route for parish and town councils to raise funding, for local needs only, is through raising precepts.

“The pedestrian crossing and a one way system for the town are outcomes from the public consultation in October 2016, when the town council sought views from residents about their wishes for improvements to the town in 2017/18.

“These are undeniably highways projects, but the county council does not have these programmed for action in the foreseeable future.

“The town council recognises the need for these safety measures now and is already working with the relevant authorities to achieve the execution of these projects.

“Salary details and contracts of employment are not in the public agenda, but there is no typing error where the line reads “salaries”.

“Every year the existing codes of conduct and financial regulations are updated, as required by law, and this year we have introduced some additional policies, one of which relates to vexatious behaviour.”

Independents for Desborough was set up after the town council precept rose by 422 per cent.

A parish poll followed, which saw an overwhelming vote of no confidence in the town council.