Elections must be close, yet another budding armchair politician writes in the West Sussex County Times - M. Smith of Billingshurst, 12 March 2015. Move over Mr Maude, is your column safe?
I share the congratulations to WSCC and HDC for yet another year of zero per cent increase in our council tax … and I write personally not as a parish councillor. Parish councils of the district had to pick up the shortfall in Council Tax Benefit Grant (CTB) so it is inevitable that that a district council should be able to produce a zero increase. The New Homes Bonuses paid into their reserves may also help.
The precept increase about which M. Smith is so disappointed equates to 1.75 pence a week on a Band D property. To secure all the services as the past year whilst making up a further shortfall in CTB grant and reaching a modest yearly increase would suggest value for money; albeit not to M. Smith.
He/she directs readers to parish council minutes and the vote(s) at a council meeting being the reason for the precept increase. Not so, could M. Smith be an advocate for a particular candidate or party! As M. Smith said any voter should avail themselves of the incident and make a judgement at the election.
Finance and General Purposes Committee undertakes the parish council’s financial administration with specific attention to resource allocation and financial wellbeing; having a chairman of such an important committee who declines to sign any of its documents is not an option.
That this refusal was from an elected position of authority and responsibility should be a bitter disappointment to the electorate, especially the 884 conscientious people who voted in good faith on 9th May, 2011.
Reading the minutes further - a Working Practices Committee has responsibility for staff matters; much of which is highly confidential.
Alleged interference/ attempt to influence such confidential matters may prove expensive for any council. From M. Smith’s previous diatribes about the parish council it appears he/she was seeking confidential information around human resources and it was he/she who mentioned a cost of £16,500.
Billingshurst parish councillors, although elected, are volunteers but may accept an allowance; only one accepts £100. Councillors should be non-political but, there have been occasions when political literature has arrived and has had to be posted out to a councillor, to the cost of the parish precept. Number not yet verified, so shall we be fair and say 2 @ 53p – second class, of course, making sure there is value for money £1.06.
After a casual vacancy, a councillor initiated a collection of signatures from members of the electorate to call an election; it is a democratic right for parishioners to request an election.
However, there is a cost for this democratic process even when no candidate is produced by those requesting an election or the councillor collecting signatures. The cost could be around £78.
£16,500 + £100 + £1.06 + £78.00 = £16,679.06 in total. Quite a number of 91ps; much more than enough to pay the increased precept on all Band D properties in Billingshurst! Without these costs, there would have been no precept rise and considerably more in the reserves for Billingshurst.
It would appear that someone needs a reminder that the Nolan principles are the basis of the ethical standards expected of public office; not a girl group of the 1980s!
The electorate of Billingshurst have more integrity than M. Smith gives them credit for –they have the capacity to assess situations and draw sound conclusions.
LESLEY WILDING (Mrs)