Shock at 214% rise in parish precept

VILLAGERS stung by a parish precept hike of more than 200% last night spoke of their shock and branded the council tax increase “ridiculous”.

Laurence Cawley

VILLAGERS stung by a parish precept hike of more than 200% last night spoke of their shock and branded the council tax increase “ridiculous”.

Residents of Thurston, near Bury St Edmunds, were left stunned by the rise in this year's bill - nearly 100 times the rate of inflation - which means some will be paying more than £60 to the parish council.

The village has more than 3,500 residents and each year households receive a council tax bill broken down into four parts - Suffolk County Council, Suffolk Police Authority, Mid Suffolk District Council and Thurston Parish Council.

This year the parish council part of the overall bill - called the parish precept - has gone up by 214%, a rise described by a council tax campaigner as “absolutely disgraceful”.

But Thurston Parish Council last night defended the increase saying the overall increase during the past eight years was 49% - less than the hikes imposed by either the county council or the district council.

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One resident, who did not wish to be named, said: “It was just a shock and we wonder why exactly Thurston has increased it by this much. We don't get any other special privileges for living here in Thurston.

“214% is a bit ridiculous and it was a shock. I suppose we will just have to pay it.”

A second resident voiced her fears for the impact of the rise on the village's elderly population who she feared would be hit hardest by the rise.

“I'm really quite angry about this. There is quite a big elderly population in Thurston and it will hit them hard.

“When you ask people in Bury St Edmunds what their rise is and they say 3% this just makes you wonder.”

Parish council chairman Janette Service said the council had simply been following advice in setting the precept.

“What a lot of people forget is this is an extremely large village and our overheads are growing. We drew extra to put us on track with what we need to have in our budget.

“We have to keep in step with Suffolk County Council and we had done as we've been asked. Our housekeeping is very good.”

Two years ago the council was warned by Government-appointed auditors to slash its then six-figure balance kept in its reserve fund and it achieved this by billing the people of Thurston less money through the council precept. But last autumn the council was told it had to increase its reserve funds and the only way it could achieve that was by increasing its precept.

Reg Hartles, of Protest Against Council Tax Suffolk campaign group, said he had not heard of a rise like Thurston's anywhere else in Suffolk.

He said: “It is absolutely disgraceful - where is the capping in all this?”

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