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4.9% = 5.1%

4.5% = 5%

In the crazy world of the Commissar's sums this isn't algebra, it's how the money works.

With fanfare, trumpet and ceremony, his press release last week said Fylde's Council Tax would be 4.9% this year.  To be honest, it's only the Government's capping that's holding him back from a much higher rise. He'd be in the 10% to 15% region if he thought Government would let him get away with it.

But he's capped at 5% maximum.

Other councils seem to have managed to cope.

Wyre's tax was below 4%. The supposedly profligate Labour-controlled Lancashire County Council was even less. They charged less than 3%.

Ours (which is Conservative controlled) was due to be 4.9%

Toward the end of last week, we heard stories that Council Tax bills arriving in the rural eastern parts of the borough were showing a 5.1% increase and "and all hell had broken out"

They good people of the east clearly don't know that when the financial competence skills were being handed out, the Commissar was in another room boning up on how you make something sound the opposite of what it actually is.

To make matters worse, when folk rang up to enquire why their bill was showing a 5.1% increase (when the nice Commissar had said it would only be a 4.9% increase), they were read a prepared script by the nice man at Fylde's Stop One Shop (the real purpose of which is to limit your ability to get real answers).

When the script-parroting had finished, and folk said, "Yes, but what does this mean" and "How does that add up"  we understand they were initially referred to the Finance Department - who rapidly changed their mind and refused to accept any more phone calls when their phone lines became jammed with people complaining. One irate resident told us Fylde had said anyone wanting to complain would have to write in (presumably so they could send them a copy of the parrot script)

We heard talk of open revolt and of complaints being made to Government with calls for capping at Fylde. But no-one could work out what was actually happening.

Then our own Council Tax bill arrived (and we're not in the rural part). That too showed Fylde with a 5.1% increase, so we imagine that the whole of Lytham and St Anne's will have had a 5.1% increase.

The switchboard is about to get a lot hotter.

Like the calculation of the APR figures on loans and savings, the method and wording on Council Tax demands is hugely prescriptive and set out in minute legal detail. This is to stop people like the Commissar from hiding the true costs with complicated terms.

Another of our readers, incensed by the rise (and more especially by what they saw as a well-repeated lie of 4.9%) was persistent and managed to get through to the Finance Department who told her that so long as the average rise over the whole of Fylde was less than 5% then it was OK for some areas to be over 5%.

We're not sure this is the real answer anyway, and we think the increase might be linked to be part of the con trick they tried on us last year with the 'Special Expenses' (shown up on bills for some of us now as "Open Spaces Maintenance").

We have covered the introduction of "Equitable Taxation / Differential Taxation / Special Expenses / Open Spaces Maintenance" in all its various guises ad nauseaum (most recently in 'Losing Ground') where Fylde charged what we believe to be an unlawful tax on residents in parts of Fylde. We plan to challenge that - and a number of other financial issues that we believe to be improper - later in the year when the accounts for 2008/09 have been finalised.

We think that maybe this 4.9% magicking itself into 5.1% is linked to differential taxation issues, and we will eventually will get to the bottom of it.

So, like the former Government's 'seasonally adjusted' employment figures - which were massaged to get them to appear lower than they were - we now have "Geographically Adjusted Council Tax" which means that when we say it is 4.9% it's really 5.1%  - see for yourself

Council Tax Charges


No doubt our readers will ask (with some justification) - what are we banging on about  when the St Anne's Town Council rise is a massive114.8%.

Well, they were at least honest in what their increase would be - even though we think they have made an appalling decision for really stupid reasons (see 'St Anne's Town Council Budget: 2009 -10') and raised their precept from around £4 to around £10 per year. But at least that's still only a tenner a year, and Town Councils are not subject to capping.

But the Commissar is on a different wicket - the Government has set a cap of 5% for all Borough Councils - and he isn't allowed to rise above that 5% (which is why he went for 4.9%).

If you want to tell him what you think of his 4.9% or 5.1% rise, you can ring him personally on  01253 714818  or email him at
cllr.jcoombes@fylde.gov.uk

If you want to complain to your local councillor, you can find out who they are here

If, like the residents in the east of Fylde, you want to complain to the Government about the fact that your tax has gone up by more than the 5% capping limit, the man to contact is the Minister for Local Government, John Healey.

You might like to read his press release that says "The Government expects the average council tax increase to be substantially below five per cent. John Healey has written to councils warning that Government stands ready to take capping action against any excessive increases, as it did in 2008-09." Follow this link for the full press release.

Or you can see the letter he wrote to all Local Authority Leaders if you follow this link.

Or if you want to email his office personally, try
 john.healey@communities.gsi.gov.uk 
You might want to ask him to have a look at Fylde and see if their geographically adjusted 5.1% is actually lawful.

Given that around 60 to 70% of Fylde's taxpayers live on the coast, (and we're making what might be an inaccurate assumption here that Lytham has had the same increase), it's hard to see how 4.9% is the average rise - unless a few folk are paying a lot less.

Dated:  22 March 2009

UPDATE 2 Apr 2009
We have now worked out the logic underlying this. Readers with a financial bent might like a copy of our spreadsheet available on request, just email and ask for it.

Alternatively, the quick and dirty answer is that Fylde's spending - excluding open spaces maintenance - went up by about 5.15%. But their spending on Open Spaces Maintenance (shown on the tax demand as 'Special Expenses') went up by only about 4.8%. This is still Fylde's spending, so the result of adding the two together is an increase lower than the printed 5.15% which excludes Special Expenses

In cash terms the increase is actually still 5.1% but in tax-payable terms it is 4.98% or 4.99% because there are an extra 98 Band D equivalent properties paying Council tax this year compared with last year.


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