Martin Lewis explains how to check if you are due a council tax refund
Parish and town councils collected just over £655million in surcharges over the financial year to March 2023 – six percent more than the previous year.
There are over 10,000 of such authorities in England – largely absent from large cities but covering vast swathes of rural areas, they serve roughly 40 percent of the population.
The first level of local government, their generally small budgets mean they focus on managing public spaces, car parks and community centres rather than public services. These budgets, however, have been going up.
The inflationary pressures squeezing households ever tighter is also leaving local authorities struggling to balance the books. In March, the Department for Levelling-Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) revealed the Council Tax bill for mid-range properties in some areas would exceed £2,000 per year for the first time.
Most parishes add what is known as a precept to Council Tax bills. While 404 parishes charge nothing at all – instead raising money through parking charges or markets – others are raking in hundreds of thousands each year.
While Chippenham Town Council in northwest Wiltshire collected more in precepts than any other at £3.6million, Falmouth in Cornwall demanded the most per resident at £378 last year.
Bodmin, also in Cornwall, comes second at £316 per head. In fact, across Cornwall Council unitary authority a number of lower-level councils charge a relatively high precept.
The combined amount they took in was higher than in any other local authority in the country at £29.5million.
Town and parish councils in Wiltshire took in the next-biggest total at £26.9million, followed by Buckinghamshire (£17.5million) and Dorset (£16.9million).
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Council taxes across the country shot up by four percent on average this year, with some charging their residents up to 15 percent more.
Local authorities are subject to referendum principles if they wish to raise the rate of Council Tax levied by five percent or more. In the expectation that town and parish councils “continue to show restraint”, their exemption from this requirement was extended until next year.
Upon the announcement, National Association of Local Councils (NALC) chair Keith Stevens said: “This would provide much-needed certainty and allow local councils to plan for the future and continue to support their communities through these challenging times.”
Some parishes took full advantage of this freedom, nowhere more so than Cotcliffe Parish Council in the Hambleton District of North Yorkshire, which increased its precept takes per resident almost tenfold between 2022 and 2023, from £14 to £151. Nearby Crosby and Thornton-le-Beans followed suit.
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