Hedge End Town Council’s Finance and Administration Committee are outraged to have received an unexpected bill for £8k from Eastleigh Borough Council, for running last years Borough Council elections.
All of the Parishes within the Borough of Eastleigh have received a similar bill, though for varying amounts, for the costs that were incurred by the electoral department in Eastleigh when running the Borough elections that were held in 2011.
Hedge End has three such wards, St Johns, Wildern and Grange Park and the £8k is to cover the costs of issuing and distributing polling cards, booking polling stations and manning them etc.
The unexpected bill was discussed at the Finance & Administration Committee meeting of 8th March.
This is the first time that a charge for running a Borough election has been levied on the Town and Parish Councils and was clearly a surprise to the Committee members. Despite some of them also serving on the Borough Council, none of them had been advised beforehand that the charge was coming, so it had not been budgeted for and was not appreciated at the end of the current Financial year. The bill was also a surprise to the Town Clerk.
A letter from the Returning Officer, Richard Ward, was read out at the meeting, which acknowledged and apologised for the bad feeling that had been caused and which offered an Olive branch, suggesting that the costs incurred could be deferred until 2013/14.
This was clearly not acceptable to the Finance & Administration Committee who resolved to write a “strongly worded letter” and to not pay the charges.
Councillor Keith House, leader of Eastleigh Borough Council and member of Hedge End’s Finance & Administration Committee was not present at this meeting.
The problem has arisen because of the pressure on Local Authorities to make cuts and to freeze Council Tax. The upper tiers of our three tier system of Local Government are now trying to offload as many of their costs as possible.
Hedge End Town Council, the lowest level of local Government, has already picked-up the lions share of the cost of keeping the local Youth Services running, which Hampshire County Council have cut completely.
This latest charge for the 2011 election expenses, from Eastleigh Borough Council, is another example of off-loading and puts even more pressure on the Town Council to raise its Council Tax precept in 2013.
Eastleigh plans to keep Council Tax increases to 1% below RPI in 2013, but will this only be achieved by forcing the Town/Parish Councils to raise their precepts…?