It's true, I couldn't make it up.
As reported on the front page of the southern edition of this week's Cambrian News, Dyffryn Arth Community Council have increased its precept 6 fold this year from £5,000 to £30,000 in one, fail incredible swoop.
It shows that for 2011/12, as well as the overall increase in the community council's precept, the Band D rate will now stand at £57.31 per each resident tax payer. This compared to a 2010/11 figure of just £9.54. That's an increase of 600.7%! Absolutely staggering.
Why, in the middle of a downturn, this incredulous increase? Well, as reported in the Cambrian News this week, as can be read here, it has been blamed by community councillors on a legal case which they lost and for which they must now pay. The Council decided to go to a tribunal to contest the sale of a piece of land which they believed had been bequeathed to the community council, to a private individual. They lost the case and having decided to cut their losses from appealing the decision, they decided to increase their precept in one-go to pay off the antipicpated legal costs of around £25,000.
Second Highest Band D Tax Rate in Ceredigion
It's quite stagerring in it's own right but when you compare it to the 50 other Town and Community Councils in Ceredigion, the scale of the rise is given an even greater perspective.
Because as this table shows, in 2010/11, Dyffryn Arth's Band D rate was just £9.54. This made it one of only 7 Town or Community Councils in Ceredigion to have a rate of under £10 and made it the 5th cheapest overall out of 51 (the cheapest being Lledrod Community Council at just £3.54 per each resident tax payer!).
Well, the 2011/12 table (which is not yet on-line) shows a new world. It's a world where the residents of Dyffryn Arth have now gone from paying the 5th lowest Band D Tax in Ceredigion out of 51 to paying the 2nd highest - beaten only by Aberystwyth!
What it all means is that the community council of Dyffryn Arth now has at £30,000, a bigger precept than larger Ceredigion conurbations such as Tregaron (£15,000), New Quay (£12,428) and Llanbadarn Fawr (£29,866). Incredibly, it falls only slightly shy of its big brother neighbour in Aberaeron on £33,390
It has gone from having the 35th, up to the 7th highest precept of the 51 Town and Community Councils in the county.
As a Cardigan Town Councillor and formerly as an Aberystwyth Town Councillor, I have already sat through 7 discussions over the years regarding the setting of the annual precept and the Council Tax Band D rate. During the majority of these, there have often been Councillors who have called for a freeze in the rates. I on the other hand along with a majority on most occasions, have regularly called for a small but reasonable increase. This year in Cardigan Town Council for example, we decided on an increase of 2%. My reasoning for this is that it allows the precept to rise steadily over the years so when we have a major project or repairs work to undertake to our properties, the money will be there. Better a slow and gradual increase year-on-year in my book than holding firm and then when an emergency comes along, one large hike comes around the corner and gives a shock to the system of every resident who we have been elected to represent.
Unfortunately for the residents of Dyffryn Arth, they've suffered the double shock of a mamouth hike in their rates in one year and at the same time know that they are not going to see the benefits of it in the services that they receive from their local council. No, as is often the way, it'll be the legal profession who'll be laughing all the way to the bank in this case.
It goes to show the great care that is required, even at a community council level, of controlling the budgets for which they are responsible and of the decisions that are made. The decision made by those Councillors who serve on Dyffryn Arth Council to take their land ownership fight to a tribunal, with all of the legal risks and costs that that would entail, now looks like a grave one indeed - particularly for those residents in that parish who will now have to foot the bill. I'm sure that those Councillors will now have to face the wrath of their electorate.
They'll be doing so soon too - the next Council elections are in 12 months time in May 2012.