FACT CHECK: Has the cost of the Parish Council really been kept in line with inflation?
Parish chair Cllr Scott Bryant justified maintaining the parish precept at its 2016 level, despite the cancellation of the £34,000 PCSO contract, on the basis that the precept has increased in line with inflation. True or false? We decided to check.
Parish councillors voted not to pass the £34,000 savings from cancellation of the PCSO contract back to residents at their first full meeting of the year on 3rd January because the Colnbrook Recreation Ground needed extra money spending on it.
Minutes of the meeting note the chair defended holding on to the savings from the PCSO contract on the basis that, to date, the precept had increased “in line with inflation”:
“With regard to the precept the Chairman advised members that this had increased over the years in line with inflation, and more recently to cover election costs and to build up a fund in respect of these”.
However, while most years have seen the precept frozen, several inflation-busting rises in recent years have seen the precept nearly double in the last twenty years from £56,600 in 1998 to £100,000 last year:
- In 2002-2003 the precept saw a near 10% increase in the precept to accommodate an exceptional “programme of works”. It was justified at the time as being “only half the amount spent on vandalism and traveller incursion during the current year”.
- In 2006-2007 it was increased again by nearly 5% to fund repairs to the Colnbrook Recreation Ground.
- In 2007-2008 it increased by over 26% to cover the cost of the new PCSO contract.
- In 2016-2017 an increase of over 7% was justified by recouping the cost of Cheema-gate.
In each case the one-off increases to the precept were retained in subsequent years.
While inflation has remained at record low levels over the past few years, smaller increases were also added in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2012 that, overall, also ensured parity with the prevailing inflation.
The claim that the parish precept has increased over the years in line with inflation can therefore be easily debunked today. On the contrary, had the precept increased in line with inflation it would now be £79,975 – 20% less than its level today.
20 years of the Parish Precept
|Year||Precept adjusted in line with inflation £||Actual Precept||Inflation Rate (%)||Actual Increase (%)|