City council’s huge tax hike

Ripon town hall, where councillors voted to increase the parish precept by 35 percent. (S)
Ripon town hall, where councillors voted to increase the parish precept by 35 percent. (S)

Council tax bills in Ripon are set to rise after city councillors increased their parish precept by 35 percent in a bid to re-energise the city’s economy.

The precept – which is added to council tax bills – is set to go up by £44,000 in the coming 2012/2013 financial year.

The extra funds will go towards employing a city manager for Ripon, and increasing the council’s contribution to the Greater Ripon Improvement Partnership (GRIP).

City councillors voted to set the precept at £168,530, up from the current £124,000, at a meeting on Monday, December 5.

Last year the precept stayed at the previous level, and at the end of 2009/10 it increased from £122,342 to £124,000 for the 2010/11 financial year.

Discussions on next year’s city council budget saw councillors vote to set aside £60,000 to employ a city manager, who will be responsible for boosting tourism and spending in city businesses.

They will also give an extra £2,500 to GRIP, the city’s regeneration body, on top of the current £5,000 yearly contribution.

Coun Andrew Williams chairs the council’s Finance and General Purposes Committee which voted to set the precept on Monday evening.

He compared Ripon City Council’s budget with that of Skipton Town Council, which is in the same parliamentary constituency and employs a town centre manager.

Coun Williams said: “Many people in the local community are looking to the city council to take the lead in these difficult times, and this will represent a rise of less than 20 pence per week on a Band D property’s council tax.

“This will be a significant percentage increase but will still leave our spending at Ripon City Council substantially lower than Skipton Town Council, where they spend more money with a smaller population.

“The extra money will substantially improve what the city council can do to take Ripon to a much more prosperous future. We cannot deliver what we wish to deliver on a shoe-string budget.”

Councillors from across the parties voiced their support for the plans.

Mayor of Ripon Coun Mick Stanley said he supported the plans “wholeheartedly” while Coun Bernard Bateman said employing a city manager would show the council “means business”.

“If we can get the same amount of business money coming into Ripon as they do in Skipton we will be home and dry,” he added.

Twelve out of 13 councillors at the meetings voted for the plans with Deputy Mayor Coun Pauline McHardy abstaining.

However, the proposals have attracted criticism from former Mayor of the city, David Parnaby, who was at Monday’s dramatic meeting.

He said he is concerned at the speed with which the decision was taken.

“The whole thing is out of the blue and in no way have the people of Ripon been consulted.” he said.

“What the city manager’s role is going to be is anybody’s guess, but it is an awful lot of money for a little place like Ripon.”

The proposals come after Chancellor George Osborne extended the Government’s council tax freeze scheme, which offers money to help local authorities freeze council tax levels in 2012/13.

l For a full breakdown of Ripon City Council's draft 2012/13 budget see the Ripon Gazette, out Friday, December 9.

l What do you think? Contact the Ripon Gazette at news@ripongazette.co.uk or 5a Kirkgate, Ripon, HG4 1PA.