Bradwell Precept’
Bradwell Precept’

Following the council’s announcement in 2015 that its precept (parish rate) would not increase for that year, and would remain as £49,000, a number of parishioners raised queries as to why their current year council tax demand in respect of the precept had increased by approximately 3%. As you might expect, the answer to this question is not particularly straightforward.

The current system is that the Parish Council (PC) will set its precept annually, for an April-March financial year, and inform the Billing Authority, i.e. Gt Yarmouth Borough Council (BC) of the amount that it requires - the decision is normally made in October of the previous year, based on calculations as to what the PC will actually need to budget for, and notified to the BC shortly afterwards. The BC calculates the current number of what it refers to as ‘Band D equivalent properties’ within the parish, and divides the precept by this number to arrive at the precept amount for each household.

Bradwell’s housing stock is made up of properties whose council tax brackets vary from ‘Band A’ to ‘Band G’. In terms of the ‘Band D equivalent’ calculation, ‘Band A’ is deemed as being worth 6/9 of a ‘Band D’ property, ‘Band B’ 7/9, ‘Band C’ 8/9, ‘Band E’ 11/9, ‘Band F’ 13/9, ‘Band G’ 15/9. In 2015, approximately 80% of Bradwell properties were within Bands A, B and C, 12.8% Band D, 6% Band E, 1% Band F, 0.2% Band G.

Obviously when new properties are built in Bradwell, their occupiers will join everyone else in paying their parish precept, which, in general terms, should result in a slightly lower charge for everybody else, if the same amount of precept is required by the PC from one year to the next. However, the level of precept required, and the creation of new Bradwell properties (and destruction of old ones) are not the only factors which influence how much has to be paid by each individual household each year.

One major reason for uncertainties as to how much per year may be raised by precept from the households in Bradwell is the ‘single resident discount’, i.e. any adult (over 18) who lives in a property as their main home on their own (or with children under 18) is entitled to this discount regardless of the ‘band’ that the home is in. Apparently this is an increasing trend nationally, and because people’s circumstances will change in this regard during any one year, it becomes difficult to set an overall figure in advance which equates precisely with the amount of precept required. Any ‘shortfall’ in one year has to be made up the next, and vice versa.

Also, certain types of banded property are free from council tax payment while they remain unoccupied. This may be the case, for example, and subject to time limits in some cases, when a house is left empty when someone has died, or gone into prison, hospital, nursing or residential home, or the house is occupied only by qualifying students; when a house has been ‘repossessed’ by a mortgagee; when a house is not allowed to be occupied by law. Again, such provisions add to the uncertainties about the actual amount of parish precept which will eventually be raised.

Another change made in 2013 has added another ‘uncertainty’ factor, the change from ‘Council Tax Benefit’, a national scheme, to ‘Local Council Tax Support’, a local scheme. People who are pensioners, or unemployed, can claim this support - previously, the BC would pay council tax benefit to qualifying households, and would be fully reimbursed by the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP), but from 2013 it has instead received a grant of approximately 90% of the total from the DWP, and has had to make up the shortfall in respect of its own council tax. This new arrangement has brought about a similar shortfall for Bradwell and other PC’s in the Borough, and, so far, the BC has agreed to make up the shortfalls for all of its constituent parishes, for which the parishes are very grateful.

Whenever the council completes its annual ‘Parish Council Accounting/Governance Statements’ (see 'quick links', 'annual audit and annual reports'), reference has to be made to the fact that the annual accounts showed figures for precept income for one year that apparently differed from those for the previous year, even when the ‘actual’ precept income received (i.e. passed on from the BC) was the same. This is because a new accounting requirement has been placed on Parish Councils to show the sum raised in respect of ‘normal’ precept income separately from the ‘shortfall’ sum made up by the BC, as outlined in the previous paragraph - thus, the ‘shortfall’ sum in each case is included in the ‘total other receipts’ column of the accounts.