Colburn mayor resigns over 100 per cent council tax increase to fund leisure centre

Councillor Jagannath Sharma. Photo: LDRS.

The mayor of Colburn has resigned after the town council he was chairing approved a 100 per cent rise in its council tax demand to keep the town’s leisure centre open.

Councillor Jagannath Sharma said he had stepped down with a heavy heart in direct response to “the huge tax increase on the people of Colburn in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis”, which he said was “morally wrong”.

A meeting of Colburn Town Council saw a large majority of the nine members approve a proposal to raise its precept to £180,000 as part of a move to maintain Colburn Leisure Centre following Richmondshire Leisure Trust giving up its management of the facility amid spiralling energy costs.

Coun Sharma, who works at the Infantry Training Centre Catterick as a superintendent in rehabilitation, said the council’s decision would mean a significant addition to people’s monthly council tax charges.

He said the move to ecoup funding to keep the centre open from taxpayers in a single financial year, rather than over three years, would fail to “insulate the people of Colburn from the triple threat of rising prices, rising inflation and rising tax”.

He said: “Whilst I accept the right of the council to take this decision I cannot, in all good conscience, stand by them.”

When asked about the decision, some town councillors declined to comment.

It is understood the rise will mean the Colburn Town Council precept rises by around £5 a month per household, with residents offered a £5 discount off gym membership at the leisure centre in return.

Pete Bolton, vice-chair of the charity interest organisation which has been launched to run the centre, said the popularity and importance of the facility should not be under-estimated, with about 1,000 local residents, aged five to 90, using it every week.

He said about 200 people had attended a town council meeting about keeping the sports centre open and some 420 children attended the centre’s gymnastics club.

He said: “It would have cost the town council about £100,000 to rectify issues with the building if it had closed.”

Instead, a dozen businesses in the area have donated about £80,000 of maintenance services towards keeping the centre open.

Mr Bolton said: “We are turning the place around. It needs a fresh beam of light. We haven’t got any businesses interested, it is all community-oriented.

“We are improving community sessions and linking up with Army veterans’ charity The Beacon to give free access to the centre.”

He said as the centre was a focus for healthy living it was a completely different hub to Colburn Village Hall.

He added: “It is an asset. If it is gone what else have we got? We have got an MoD-funded facility in the garrison that in my opinion is over-populated and over-used. We know we benefit the majority of the town or the garrison as a whole.”

Mr Bolton said the centre was being kept as low-cost as possible for residents, with lower prices for community use and a competitive £15 daily charge for a summer camp.

County councillor for the area, Councillor Kevin Foster, said he was no longer a member of the town council and was concerned residents of Colburn were not aware of the town council’s decision to raise the precept.

He said: “It is a shame the mayor has felt the need to resign. Jag has done his very best for the residents of Colburn. I would like to thank him for his work for the community for the last ten months.”

4 Comments

  1. Having resigned from Colburn Town Council in November, I can now freely say that this is a disgraceful and inconsiderate move, to increase the Council Tax by such a huge amount. There is only a very small percentage of Colburn residents that attend the Leisure Centre, but Angie Dale has repeatedly pushed for it to stay open, without considering the consequences. Councillor Sharma has done a brilliant job, but, as with myself, he didn’t support this ridiculous increase in Tax!

  2. I think the problems are it’s out of the way. Doesn’t get enough publicity and limited facilities.

  3. I do not use the leisure centre as it doesn’t cater for the thing I use. I think it’s disgraceful to make people pay for something they don’t use,when there is a leisure centre a Mike up the road with more facilities.
    People should of had a vote on if they wanted the money put on their council tax total disgraceful as the the way people are struggling with bills

  4. Sack the rest of the council and hold a vote for this increase, i can bet the majority will be against it, disgraceful

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