Desborough Town Council has responded to the outcry over a big rise in its council tax precept.
A statement on the council’s website apologises for “not having done more to warn people of what was to come” but has defended the increase, saying this is the only way to guarantee the income needed to carry out a number of projects in the town.
The 400 per cent rise in the town council’s portion of council tax prompted a meeting in the town last night, where it was decided to call for a vote of no confidence in the council.
The meeting was attended by a large amount of Desborough residents but no town councillors.
A petition against the precept rise amassed more than 2,000 signatures, with many saying they hadn’t been informed of it until they opened their tax bill.
The statement from Desborough Town Council says: “In wanting to improve the town, the council is not wrong.
“In raising the size of precept that we have, the council has not acted unlawfully.
“Project ideas were estimated, bearing in mind that an estimate is not in any way the same as a quote or tender.
“Historically, the next stage, debate of the budget, has always taken place in the public exclusion part of a town council meeting.
“The only change this time around was that the public exclusion part of the meeting took place on a different day, in a different location.
“Again, council has not broken any rule or law by doing this, because the budget was only debated, it was not voted upon.
“The budget was then debated and resolved in public in December, just as it had been done the previous year.
“The information was uploaded to the town council website.
“If this council is guilty of anything, it is guilty of not having done more to warn people of what was to come.
“And for that we are sorry, we are sorry for the shock that your bills caused you.”
A long statement follows, quoting variously Noel Coward, Franklin D Roosevelt, Barack Obama and Anne Frank, which spells out that, of the three ways councils have of raising money – money from developers, grants and council tax – only the latter is a guaranteed source of funding and equates to “less than the cost of a coffee and cake in a local cafe”.
It goes on to defend the various projects which the precept money will be spent on, including more car parking space, council office improvements, a skate park and play areas, as well as changes to the town clerk’s employment details.
The statement ends by saying: “We made the decision to increase [council tax] substantially in one go, in order to safeguard for the future, with a view to not increasing the budget beyond the rate of inflation.
“If Desborough had begun precepting 40 years ago instead of relying on a grant from Kettering Council, the increase would have been small, year on year, until we reached the level we are experiencing now if not more.
“Investment in the town would have happened already, and we wouldn’t now be hearing the town described as ‘a sad little town’.
“Change is the law of life. If you only look to the past you’re going to miss the future.
“And we are at the dawn of a truly wonderful future for Desborough.
“But, for that future to be realised, Desborough has to overcome her fear, because fear stifles our thinking and actions.
“It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation, the very situation Desborough is in right now.”