A town council serving one of North Yorkshire’s most deprived communities looks set to consider an inflation-busting rise in its council tax demand to help fund a leisure centre with an uncertain future due to escalating fuel costs.
Colburn Town Council, which unlike district and county councils is not subject to limits on the council tax rises it can demand before having to hold a referendum, has refused to reveal details of the proposal ahead of setting the amount residents will have to pay next year to the parish-level authority.
The move comes as North Yorkshire County Council aims to hand extra powers to parish and town councils to take on services.
However, it has been claimed at a meeting on Monday, the town council looks likely to support considerably increasing its annual £96,000 demand from residents, which could mean residents having to pay a significant amount extra next year to keep the troubled 20-year-old leisure centre running.
While the agenda for the meeting describes the proposals as its “draft budget”, the town council said it would not release any information about the financial plans sent to its nine elected members ahead of the meeting.
The agenda states the council, which last month resolved to pay £7,000 a month to help keep the centre open, aims to agree a budget and precept for 2023/24 “to cover the additional requirements to fund the new community group Colburn Community Sports Centre”.
The move follows charity Richmondshire Leisure Trust giving up the management of the centre as it faced a huge escalation in fuel costs.
The trust is working with the newly-incorporated community interest organisation “to ensure a seamless handover on January 1”.
The centre opened in 2002 to provide the community with a safe place for sport and recreation, and to improve fitness and includes a gymnasium, dance studio and serves as a base for the local sports groups.
Leading councillors, including Richmondshire District Council’s leader Councillor Angie Dale have regularly underlined the importance of the facility to the community.
The council’s mayor, Jagannath Sharma, scotched claims the authority’s demand was set to double, before encouraging residents concerned about the proposed precept increases to attend the meeting in the village hall.
Councillor Kevin Foster, who was elected to represent Colburn on North Yorkshire County Council in May, said he had recently stepped down from the town council and could not comment on the proposals as he had not been sent the town council’s draft budget.
The county council’s leader and member for the neighbouring division of Catterick village, Councillor Carl Les, said it would be inappropriate to comment on detail as it would not be the controlling local authority for the town council until April 1.
He said while district councils needed the county council’s consent for major spending plans before the unitary council is launched, town and parish councils did not.
Cllr Les added while he remained confident in the principle of devolving powers to parish and town councils that wanted to take on other services, North Yorkshire council would want to “make sure they have the capacity to do that”.