Do you live in St Albans city centre? Well, there's a hidden levy in your council tax
PUBLISHED: 06:02 08 November 2015
Residents of the eight city centre wards in St Albans are paying an additional levy on their council tax that most are unaware of.
Now a councillor is proposing that they should be asked if they want to pay extra on their council tax for repairs and improvements to facilities specifically used by themselves.
Currently projects which come under the mantle of the city neighbourhoods committee, which has no budget, are funded by ‘special expenses’ which do not appear as a separate item on the council tax bills sent out to residents of the eight wards.
The proposal from district councillor Roma Mills is that they should be asked if they want to continue paying in that manner.
It follows a recommendation that ‘special expenses’ should be charged to council taxpayers in the eight wards to refurbish play parks and replace the ramp and steps at Clarence Park as part of next year’s district council budget..
A suggestion that city centre residents should be levied for new Christmas lights has been deferred because they benefit the whole of the district and bring in visitors.
Cllr Mills said that the eight wards, including Batchwood which she represents, were already paying for ‘special expenses’ but were probably unaware of it because it came under the global sum on council tax bills.
In the areas covered by parish councils, a precept is levied annually as part of council tax bills and residents can see exactly how much they pay for the services parish councils provide.
Cllr Mills went on: “My irritation is that I don’t think people [in the eight wards] understand that they have been subject to an additional levy.
“If I was a parish council and desperately want more funding, I would be able to levy on the precept.”
She believes it would be far more transparent if residents of the eight wards were asked if they wanted to be ‘emparished’ rather than have ‘special expenses’ absorbed into their council tax bill.
Cllr Mills said that part of the problem was that additional responsibilities had been passed on to the city neighbourhoods committee without any money to pay for them.
A similar concern was voiced by committee chairman, Cllr Robert Donald, who confirmed that residents of city areas paid ‘special expenses’ which they did not realise but stressed it was only a small amount.
He went on: “When the city neighbourhoods committee was set up by cabinet, they transferred certain assets to us and they said that these non-strategic assets were ones which ‘special expenses’ should apply to if you want to do more things for them.”
“If we want to replace items we don’t have a budget for that - we only have a budget for maintaining them. If we want to replace them we have to consider ‘special measures’ for that.
“Some live issues come up where we don’t have the money for new facilities and we have think about how we are going to do it.”
Cllr Donald added: “The rationale of transferring assets without any revenue is very odd.”