Report of the Cabinet Member for Finance.
Members were invited to consider the report of the Cabinet Member for Finance regarding the review of the Deepings Special Expense Area. Any recommendations made by Members would be considered as part of the budget proposals for 2020/21.
The Local Government Finance Act 1992 permits local authorities to create Special Expense Areas within the district to avoid double taxation. In other areas, expenses covered by a Special Expense Area levy (usually grounds maintenance costs) would be covered by the Parish or Town Council precepts. The tax levy for the Deepings Special Expense Area (SEA) was charged to residents of Market Deeping and Deeping St James. The only cost currently included in the SEA was the grounds maintenance for the Linchfield Road playing field. This created the equivalent charge of around £3 per annum for a Band D Council Tax charge property.
Officers explained that costs needed to continue to be met in order for the maintenance of the playing field to be sustained. The Council would need to decide whether to keep charging the local residents through the SEA levy, or request that the costs be wholly met by the direct users of the field; The Deepings School, The Deepings Rugby Union Football Club and the Deepings Leisure Centre. It was noted that the current review of the Deepings SEA called for further consideration of the principle of using SEAs as a means to meet community facility costs across the District. Bourne, Grantham, Langtoft and Stamford also currently had SEAs.
Members were invited to make comments or ask any questions arising from their consideration of the report:
· Some Members expressed that they felt SEAs were no longer the most effective way of collecting the tax levy for the relevant areas.
· One Member noted that the field was closed to the public throughout school periods, and therefore found it unfair to ask the residents to pay for a facility which they would potentially not be able to use. Similarly, during discussion other Members mentioned that as the playing field was used primarily by the school, the leisure centre and the rugby club, it needed to be carefully considered whether all residents in the area should continue to front the tax levy for these services.
· Some Members pointed out that there were amenities available for public usage in all towns and villages, and as there were no restrictions in place to prevent residents from other areas making use of the provisions, the overall costs should be shared between all tax payers.
· Concerns were raised as to the potential implications of asking stakeholders to meet the costs. Members expressed concern that the charge could deplete school resources, and could potentially mean that the Rugby Union Football Club would find itself in the position of no longer being financially viable.
· One of the Members for the Market and West Deeping Ward expressed concern as to the level of consultation which had been undertaken with stakeholders.
· It was noted that the Leisure Centre were benefitting from income received in relation to external bookings for the playing field.
· Members suggested that they be provided with further information detailing the facilities provided by each of the Special Expense Areas to allow the discussion of SEAs across the District to continue at a later date. It was recommended that the Cabinet Member for Finance consult with Parish Councillors in the Deepings area as well as the Finance team, to gather further information for the Committee to consider in order for it to make any recommendations. It was requested that this be carried out in sufficient time for any recommendations of the Committee to be considered during budget proposals for the following financial year.
Ø The Cabinet Member for Finance to consult with The Deepings Parish Councillors and Officers regarding the Deepings Special Expense area, and report back to the Committee with his findings
Ø Information detailing the facilities covered by Special Expense Areas in all areas across the District currently included in this tax levy to be circulated to Members