PARISH MATTERS BY PETER BIRD: A bit about budgets

At this time of the year, your council tax bill for the forthcoming year will be dropping through your letterbox.

It will have been produced by your district council but not all the money collected is kept by the district council – some of it is passed onto other government organisations. One of them is your parish council, and examination shows how much is handed to your parish council.

So how come your district council knows how much to hand to your parish council? Well the sum given over is the amount your parish council has asked for. This sum is based on knowledge of previous years’ expenditure, and perhaps some adjustment for inflation.

In my council the process of determining the amount of money required starts in late autumn. First each of the committees meet. In my case, those I sit on are Amenities and Finance. The amenities committee, for example, reviews a list of all the items it proposed to spend money on during 2012/13, how much it asked for on each item, and how much of that money it has so far spent.

Then an assessment of the end of year expenditure will be made, followed by a proposed figure for the forthcoming year.

Final figures from each of the committees are added together, together with general running costs etc, to produce the required annual budget.

This figure is then presented to the whole council, and if passed, forwarded to the district council.

Having painstakingly arrived at a figure to present to district council, we are dropped a bombshell from central government, and you know which political parties currently occupy those seats, don’t you.

It seems the government is going to transfer the amount we all contribute to council tax rebate recipients, to district and parish councils, (is it likely you’ll receive a reduction you currently pay through tax and national insurance?). Problem is it is introducing this through a complex system of calculations, in which we have to guess this year, how much to increase the rates to you for next and future years, to cover the contribution, but won’t be told how much the contribution is going to cost us in future years. Thus a wrong guess now, by parish councillors, could seriously affect how much we have to spend in future years.

We have made a democratic decision to stay with our previously calculated sum.

Next month: Community Plan.