County council says parish election charges are out of its hands

Photo: Paul Downey.

North Yorkshire County Council has dismissed claims of being “totally and utterly unfair” to parish, town and city councils by expecting them to fund their own elections next year.

The county council’s leadership has hit back saying it is powerless to change the potentially financially difficult situation which is expected to face some of the lowest tier authorities, elections for which have been brought forward a year to May.

When the Implementation Board, which is comprised of representatives of the county and district councils, submitted the Structural Change Order to government to kick start the process of merging the county and seven district councils, it was agreed parish and town council elections should be brought forward a year to align them to elections for the new authority.

The comments of the county council’s ruling Conservative administration follow opposition councillors stating the move would see parishes would be forced to raise money at short notice to cover any election costs.

Objectors have highlighted how some parishes, particularly ones that are self-funding through means such as car parking, do not charge residents a council tax precept, but the election costs could lead to extra council tax charges.

They have emphasised while the Yorkshire Local Councils Association had advised the upcoming elections would be cost-free for parishes, the county was offering contradictory advice that parish, town and city councils should prepare to pay their normal fees for elections.

Councilllor Stuart Parsons, the authority’s opposition leader, said parishes accrued funding for elections every four years in their annual budget setting, so would not have sufficient set aside to pay for elections next year.

He said as the county council was expecting to save over £250m with the local authority merger, it “could be a little bit more generous” with the parish election expenses.

Coun Parsons: “I am not impressed by the county council approach as the elections are being called early to suit their move towards unitary, not to benefit the other tier of local government. Because of this parish and town councils will only have one year to set aside the necessary sums for this election instead of the two years they would have had.

“The county council is ignoring the fact that parishes and towns received no government support during the Covid-19 pandemic and that as a result of this most are distinctly short of money. Richmond Town Council lost nearly 50 per cent of its’ annual income with no possibility of support.

“The county council is therefore being totally and utterly unfair in its’ approach. It is failing to recognise the uniqueness of the impending situation and also refusing to accept their own responsibility in creating this situation.”

However, Councillor Carl Les, the authority’s leader, said whether parishes paid for the elections next year or in the future was out of his administration’s hands.

He said it would be entirely up to the new authority to decide whether it made parish and town councils make contributions towards election expenses, but he did not believe holding elections for separate councils at different times represented a fair deal for the county’s taxpayers.

Coun Les added: “Some of us are proposing that we don’t think that it is right that the new authority should make a charge to parish councils for election expenses where the principle authority is holding an election anyway. We can’t bind the new authority to that.

“Unfortunately some people are taking that to mean there shouldn’t be a charge for the 2022 elections. We can’t do anything about the elections in May as they are still in the control of the district councils as the returning bodies.

“Some district councils charge for election expenses and some don’t, so all we can do is have a conversation with them leading up to that election.”

2 Comments

  1. So the County Council won’t help local parishes fund their elections but how much did they waste on them posters they stuck down on the pavements. The mind boggles as to what the County Council deems its priorities

    • Ok for all councillors to get a £250 pay rise a year.???
      Shame they really dont think about others.
      About time we in richmond had a shake up of the council members.??
      We waste money on so many silly ideas

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