Councillors reject Arun

TOWN councillors in Bognor Regis have rejected a lecture about their finances.

They said their accounts were in good shape and they handled their income well in spite of a warning from Arun District Council to beware of worsening financial conditions.

Glenna Frost, the town council’s clerk, said: “Despite the headline-grabbing warnings from some Arun district councillors, parish councils in general do indeed ‘have their finances in shape’.

“The opportunities, and instances, of money wasting are much less at this level of local government than at principal authority level.

“The parish share of council tax is remarkably low and, unlike principal authorities, parishes receive absolutely no other support for their budgets. Not one penny of the business rates or centrally imposed local taxes finds it way into the parish bank account.”

The Observer recently reported Arun’s decision to repeat in the next financial year its action in this one: to hand over £431,000 to parishes across the district with a warning the gesture might not be repeated.

But Cllr Roger Nash, the chairman of the town council’s policy and resources committee, said Arun was merely passing on the money it had been given by central government. This was handed out to ease the impact on parish councils of changes to council tax calculations imposed by Whitehall.

“These changes, and their impact on 2013/14 council tax bills, were not of Arun’s making,” he said.
“And the help from central government was certainly not sufficient to cover the total cost of the change.

“At least Arun was not one of the very few principal authorities who took the parish cash and kept it for themselves.

“For that, at least Arun’s parishes should be grateful.”

It was ‘a bit rich’ to suggest the district council was doing them a favour. But it was to be hoped the district council did not join the handful of those who failed to pass on the cash.