Parishes at war with Central Beds Council over ‘stolen’ money

Central Beds Council's HQ
Central Beds Council's HQ

Parish councils across Bedfordshire have called for government back-up, saying they are being denied money due to them by Central Beds Council.

In a motion passed on Wednesday at the annual meeting of Bedfordshire Association of Local Councils, they called their national body to request a government Minister intercede on their behalf with Central Beds.

John Westbury, chairman of Eggington Parish Council, seconded the motion and said: “We’re trying to find out if we’re getting next year’s allocation through, or instead make up for the fact that Central Beds Council are basically stealing money from us.”

The Council Tax Support Grant was set up by the Government in 2013 to make up for losses in the shake-up of council tax rules.

All unitary authorities receive the money. In two-tier systems like Central Bedfordshire it was assumed a portion of it would be passed down to town and parish councils. But so far, Central Beds is one of a number of authorities that has refused to do so.

Mr Westbury said: “It’s what they should do. It’s money that the Government has given to Central Beds to replace what people don’t pay in council tax. Cllr Maurice Jones has said that, basically, Central Beds Council are not going to hand the money over, in spite of the fact that’s what the Government intended.”

Leighton town councillor Mike Bishop was also at the meeting, which has held at Houghton Conquest Village Hall . He said: “It’s all very well Central Beds boasting about not raising council tax, but they are keeping back money meant for smaller councils to help them do it.”

In response to the criticism, Central Beds Councillor Maurice Jones, said: “We have been very clear with all the town and parish councils about the fact that there is no longer a standalone council tax support grant.

“In these times of austerity all councils are facing real challenges in meeting increasing service demands with less funding. At Central Bedfordshire, we have addressed this with a relentless focus on efficiency, and as a result we have saved more than £70million since we were created without cutting front-line services.

“But it is difficult, and in reality we are simply not in a position to release our revenue support grant from government – which does not include any ring-fenced council tax support grant – to other councils. Our advice would be that they need to be as focused on saving money as we have been.”