Parish councils will get handouts after Craven District Council U-turn

Craven District Council leader Coun Chris Knowles-Fitton

Craven District Council leader Coun Chris Knowles-Fitton

First published in News

Parish councils are to have government grants passed on to them by Craven District Council despite earlier threats they would be held back.

In a letter to all parishes at the end of last year, Craven Council said it was considering passing on just half, or none at all, of the grants which last year ranged from £47,000 for Skipton Town Council to just £5.61 to Ribblebanks.

Its leader, Coun Chris Knowles-Fitton (Cons), said following the autumn statement he would be recommending no more of the Council Tax Support Grant be distributed to parishes.

But at last week’s extraordinary meeting of the council it was agreed more than £77,000 would be distributed to the parishes in the coming financial year.

A further recommendation that the grants be stopped the year after was also amended so the issue can be revisited on a yearly basis.

A report said the council had received its funding settlement from the government for 2014/15 and funding was provided for support to parishes under the Localisation of Council Tax.

“There is an expectation the council will continue to provide assistance to parishes. However there is no legal requirement to do so,” said the report.

Coun Philip Barrett (Ind) said he was pleased the parishes were to receive the grants and added it had been “unwise” for the council leader to state his desire to pass none of the grants on. “I am glad the group as a whole has come together and taken the fairness route.”

After the meeting, Coun Knowles-Fittton said he was pleased to be able to support the parishes after all.

It had been possible because of unexpected additional money from the collection of council tax and business rates.

“We need to support parishes if it is reasonable to do so and the funding is there,” he said.

Coun Robert Heseltine (Ind) also welcomed the change of mind but criticised Coun Knowles-Fitton.

“Despite the negative, parsimonious and untenable position of the leader, wiser minds have prevailed and recognised the importance of this parish council funding being made available to provide the necessary and most local of services at the level of local government closest to the people.”

Dave Parker, chief officer of Skipton Town Council, said: “Skipton Town Council is obviously pleased with the final decision – both from our own angle and for other parishes across Craven.

“Ultimately, the funding from government is to offset the impact of a situation over which town and parish councils have no control and no direct involvement.”

He added: “We’re particularly pleased the council has also decided not to try to pre-empt the situation for next year.”

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