In the interest of openness, and contrary to our usual policy, Fairlight Focus has decided to share this post which has been received from an anonymous group.
Please note that it has not been fact checked.
“Fairlight Financial Facts and Figures
In advance of the meeting of Fairlight residents arranged by the Parish Council for 19 September 2023 we thought it would make sense to circulate to residents some facts and figures about the Parish Council’s tax income and spending in recent years.
Q: What is the Fairlight Precept?
This is the amount of local tax which is levied by the Parish Council and added to our Council Tax bills. It covers the spending by the Parish Council on the village and the costs of administration.
Q: What is the Fairlight Parish Budget?
This is the Parish Council’s estimate of expenditure in the current year. It is fixed every year. It is shown on the Parish Council’s website.
Q: Has the Parish Council’s spending and the amount of the Fairlight Precept/Tax increased in recent years?
YES!! Very rapidly – and the largest item of expenditure is “Staff Costs”, comprising of one person
2017-18 Precept £46,750 of which Staff Costs £12,778
2018-19 Precept £47,000 of which Staff Costs £18,223
2019-20 Precept £53,000 of which Staff Costs £22,486
2020-21 Precept £63,000 of which Staff Costs £21,513
2021-22 Precept £63,000 of which Staff Costs £25,570
2022-23 Precept £70,000 of which Staff Costs £35,547
2023-24 Precept £90,000 of which Staff Costs £37,378.86 (as estimated for current year in the Budget)
Q; What do the last set of audited accounts to 31 March 2023 show?
Those accounts for the last completed financial year 2022-23 are the subject of review by the external auditors. The role of the auditors is very limited. However, it is to be noted that in 2022-23 the costs for the one part-time member of staff increased by no less than 39%. For that year “Staff Costs” represented by far the largest item of spending – more than half of the Parish Council tax/precept we paid as residents.
In the current year to 31 March 2024 the Fairlight Precept has increased by another 30.2% or £20,000 in a single year. The amount of the tax is now £90,000.
By contrast, the rate of increase of other authorities in our Council Tax bills for this year, 2023-24, has ranged from 2.7% (Rother District Council), 3% (East Sussex CC), 5% (Fire Authority) to 6.7% (Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner). Why is this Parish Council so out of line?
Questions for the Parish Council
The Parish Council is asking our views about its level of spending. Here are some questions for them.
1. Why was it necessary to increase the Fairlight Precept/ Tax by 30.2% or £20,000 in a single year at a time of economic hardship?
2. Why is the Parish Council paying so much for the services of the Clerk/Proper Officer who only works part time? What are her actual hours?
3. How many other Parish Councils have increased their Staff Costs by 39% in one year when employing only one person?
4. How much higher is the level of Tax and Spending planned to go?
5. What economies are they planning to make before increasing spending still further?
6. How has the spending got so out of control?
7. Why has the Precept/Tax virtually doubled in 5 years?
The General Lack of Transparency
We decided to investigate the Parish Council’s accounts because over the past year a number of local residents had become very concerned about the most recent increase of over 30% in the Precept/Tax imposed on villagers and have attempted to ask questions of the leadership of the Parish Council, in correspondence without success. Also, it seems that questions raised by residents at Parish Council meetings have evidently been evaded and/or ignored. That should not be the case. Spending of public money should be explained clearly and justified. Cutting back on bureaucracy and the costs of administration is absolutely essential when it is absorbing such a huge proportion of the Precept/Tax Income. Residents are entitled to ask questions and to seek answers as to how public money is being spent. That is what is meant by accountability.
The next 5 Year Plan
The Parish Council aims to ask villagers what they would like to see in the next 5 Year Plan. There is one major problem. No financial estimates are suggested and none are intended to be supplied. No doubt they imagine that the costs will just take care of themselves. They won’t. We will be expected to pay whatever the cost may be.
If you share any of these concerns, or have any questions, please attend the above mentioned Parish Council Meeting in the Village Hall at 7.00pm on 19th September and ask your councillors.
You can contact us by email at email@example.com
Fairlight Financials is a group of concerned residents who have decided to research what has been going on.
The above figures have been extracted from the summary accounts for the Parish Council called the AGAR, which is to be found in the Finance section of the Parish Council website under “Audit and Accounts”. That section also contains the 2023-24 Budget. The actual cost to individual residents of the activities of the Parish Council is shown on our Council Tax Bills.”