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"No help for Parish Councils" says Whitehead

May 8, 2020 2:02 PM

Town and parish councils have been asking about the possibility of some of the government funding being dished out to Wiltshire Council by the Government being devolved to themselves. Over recent years WC has been shunting costs onto parish councils. However WC leader Philip Whitehead says the county council will hang on to the cash. Here's his statement to the council:

"Towns and parishes receive their precept from Wiltshire Council and our payment in April of 50% of Town and Parish precept requirements has helped cash flows. The second payment of the remaining 50% will be made in September. We are guaranteeing these payments irrespective of the fact our intake of Council Tax and business rates may be significantly less than the total that we forecast just a couple of months ago. Wiltshire Council will take the risk on any non-payments. (See note 1)

We are currently reviewing our own financial position at the Council. As for all organisations and Councils this has been a stretching financial time for us. Until Wiltshire Council has assessed its financial position in the light of the additional financial help provided by the Government and satisfied itself that it can achieve a stable financial position going forward, it cannot give any commitments concerning the financial support that may be forthcoming for Town and Parish Councils.

Therefore, my advice to Town and Parish Councils at this time is to follow the same approach as Wiltshire Council and budget for any income losses and additional costs using all available means including reserves. Some Town and Parish Councils have significant levels of reserves, equivalent to a reserve of £70M if you compare it to our budgets. (See note 2) In addition, Community Foundation has grant money available for voluntary groups and towns and parishes can apply for these funds.

Sorry that I cannot be more helpful at this time, but I wanted to be absolutely clear about Wiltshire Council's position on this."

Notes

1. This is incorrect. Parish precepts don't come from WC but from residents of the parishes. WC merely receives the money when people pay their Council Tax and then distributes it to the parishes. Making the payment of the precept seem like an act of generosity is misleading: to withhold the precept would be theft.

2. It's not clear how this figure is obtained, but it's obviously nonsensical. If anyone is aware of a parish council with £70 million in reserves then please let us know about it.