Council defends decision to cut support for charity and voluntary groups

Boston District Council offices, West Street, Boston. EMN-140503-125039001
Boston District Council offices, West Street, Boston. EMN-140503-125039001

A senior councillor has defended the decision to cut the amount of financial support offered to charity and voluntary groups in Boston.

In last week’s Standard we featured a joint letter from Frank Cammack, chairman of Boston and District Sports Forum, and acting CEO of Lincolnshire Community and Voluntary Service David Fannin critcising the council’s plan to cut 25 per cent of groups’ ‘discretionary rate relief’.

They said they have ‘very real concern’ that the cut will inflict damage on groups.

Coun Raymond Singleton-McGuire, portfolio holder for finance, said the authority has had to cope with a 13 per cent cut in 2014/15 with another £1.7 million to save in the next five years.

Coun Singleton-McGuire explained: “The 25 per cent across-the-board cut in DRR was actually announced and agreed by the council last year, with public consultation when not one person objected. We announced for 2014/15 the introduction of that cut a year in advance, so the charities would have a full year to prepare.

“The money to pay for rate relief for charities does not come wholly from Government - it comes partly from the pockets of the borough’s council tax payers. We are only now asking the organisations to share the issues of the austerity measures which must be taken.”

He added: “Of the charities who pay, 55 (75 per cent of all bodies) will pay less than £250.

“For a club with 50 members the cost for those paying less than £250 a year is less than 10p per member per week.

“If the council was to cover the cost of not cutting back by 25 per cent on DRR by raising council tax – an increase of 0.4 per cent - it would lose the Government council tax freeze grant so the increase to the council taxpayer would be 1.4 per cent.”

Councillors have agreed not to increase the borough’s share of council tax for 2014/15.

The charge for services provided by Boston Borough Council to the average property - band D - will remain at £168.39; £3.23 a week.

Lincolnshire County Council has also frozen its share of council tax. Lincolnshire Police has chosen to increase its share by just short of two per cent.

As reported in last week’s Standard Coun Raymond Singleton-McGuire, the council’s finance portfolio holder, has said the authority is delivering a balanced budget at a time of ‘significant financial challenge’, without raising reserves and without redundancies.

At a meeting last we he reminded members that an estimated £1,759,000 needed to be saved by 2018/19, £639,000 in 2015/16.

Government support for the council is being cut by £772,000 (23 per cent) between 2013/14 and 2014/15.

Those living in Boston pay the Boston Town Area Committee council tax charge - £12.72 for a band D property.

Those in parishes will pay parish rates on top – an average of £5.32 per property.

The total bills for each band are: A-£951.96, B-1110.62, C-1269.28, D-£1427.94, E-£1745.26, F-£2062.58, G-£2379.90 and H-£2855.88.