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Council tax rise warning to Keighley ratepayers
Keighley ratepayers have been warned to brace themselves for what could be a second consecutive record-breaking tax hike.
Keighley Town Council issued a statement on Tuesday revealing a severe impact on its precept for 2014-15 due to issues over which it claims it has “absolutely no control”.
But the announcement led the town’s MP – Kris Hopkins – to brand the local authority “dysfunctional”.
The council’s 2013-14 budget included a highly controversial 72.6 per cent increase in its precept charge, the lion’s share of which was required to prop up its ailing civic centre.
The North Street building was revealed to be £74,000 in the red in February. That figure had increased to £162,000 by May, after which the council has refused to issue any updates.
This week, the town council office remained tight-lipped about the exact precept increases being planned for the next financial year. But the civic centre debt will now be added to two more huge drains on the public purse.
Keighley Mayor Councillor Sally Walker revealed it faces additional losses of up to £73,541 due to Government funding changes and the behaviour of a campaign group.
She said: “The Government says £3.3 billion will be made available for 2014-2015 to mitigate the impact of localised council tax support schemes on the council tax base.
“This includes funding for town and parish councils. Bradford District Council has agreed to pass down funding, but will make a 20 per cent reduction, equating to a loss of £23,541 to Keighley Town Council.
“Also, the town council has been subjected to a sustained campaign by an unrepresentative minority group, called Cavetown Council. This has bombarded the council with a stream of e-mails and Freedom of Information requests.
“The many objections made by this group to the council accounts, which as a result are still being audited, will result in the town council – and therefore Keighley ratepayers – receiving additional costs of between £30,000 and £50,000.”
But the announcement has been met with widespread criticism.
Keighley MP Kris Hopkins said: “Bradford Council has difficult decisions to make and I often don’t agree with them.
“But this shouldn’t provide another excuse for Keighley Town Council to burden residents with what is effectively double taxation.
“Dealing with challenges from the public is part of democracy. To suggest responding to extra e-mails will lead to an increase of £50,000 on its base budget demonstrates how utterly dysfunctional Keighley Town Council has become.
“Rather than place a greater financial burden on Keighley people, the town council should examine its salary base, its assets and its liabilities, including the £1.1 million loan it took out to purchase a white elephant in the shape of the civic centre.”
Ingrow resident and Cavetown Council spokesman, Elizabeth Mitchell, said: “We’re a group of parishioners who want the town council to be accountable, transparent and honest.
“What we’ve found in the town council, in terms of its finances, we’ve passed on to the proper authorities. Those authorities now need to investigate this, and we’ve no control over that.”