Public Consultation - Fairer Charging in Tonbridge and Malling

Last Updated:

Update 2 November 2016

The public consultation on 'Fairer Charging in Tonbridge & Malling' closed on 20 June and the Cabinet considered the responses at a special meeting on 28 July 2016.

A number of recommendations were made by Cabinet in the light of the feedback received and these were presented to Full Council on 1 November 2016.

Councillors agreed to adopt a Special Expenses Scheme, which will introduce 'local charges' for selected Borough Council services with effect from 1 April 2017:

  • Maintenance of Closed churchyards
  • Open spaces, parks and play areas managed by the Borough Council in parished areas (excluding Leybourne Lakes Country Park)
  • Open spaces, play areas, parks and sports grounds in Tonbridge (excluding Tonbridge Castle grounds and Haysden Country Park)
  • Support given to local events
  • Allotments

The Scheme covers the costs of these selected local services, which are provided by the Borough Council in some areas of the borough. In other areas of the borough, these services are provided by parish councils. Residents pay for these parish services via their parish precept.

The new approach means that only local communities will be charged for the costs of these services rather than the costs being shared across the whole borough.

Feedback from the public showed that many residents felt that Tonbridge Cemetery, Christmas lighting and High Street floral displays shouldn't be included in a Special Expenses Scheme. Following detailed consideration of the feedback and alternative ways forward, Councillors agree that these items should be excluded from the Scheme.

The majority of Borough Council services, such as waste collection, recycling, street cleansing, environmental health, housing and country parks, are borough-wide services and therefore will not form part of a Special Expenses Scheme.

The way that Council Tax charges are applied for services provided by other organisations such as Kent County Council, Kent Police and Kent Fire & Rescue would be unchanged.

In addition to improving fairness, the introduction of the Special Expenses Scheme will enable the Council to save approximately £400,000 per year by withdrawing two types of grant currently given to parish and town councils.

The Borough Council's total income from council tax will be unaffected by these changes.


Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council is inviting borough residents, parish councils and other key stakeholders to take part in a Public Consultation. Please take a look at our short video about the consultation on fairer charging

What is being considered?

The Borough Council is considering changing the way that it charges for the Tonbridge & Malling Borough element of your Council Tax bill from 2017/18 onwards.

Why are we considering this?

Currently, the cost of providing Borough Council services is shared by all council tax payers in the borough. However, some residents live in areas with several Borough Council-provided facilities and services while others live in areas with fewer because these services are provided by their local parish council. We think it could be fairer if the people who benefit from these local services paid for them via a "Local Charge", in the same way that those who live in parished areas pay through their "Parish precept".

If you live anywhere within the borough other than the town of Tonbridge, you pay an extra parish precept for the local services (such as playgrounds and open spaces) provided by your parish/town council. As Tonbridge is not parished, the Borough Council has to provide services to the residents of Tonbridge.

The Borough Council does not charge any extra council tax to the residents of Tonbridge for these local services because all residents pay a general "Borough precept". So, to help make things fairer to the parishes, the Borough Council gives money to parish councils to help them with the costs of the local services they provide. This allows parish councils to reduce the amount of Council Tax that they charge in their Parish precept.

Cuts in the government funding that the Borough Council receives mean that it needs to save £1.8 million over the next four years. The Borough Council is seeking to make these savings while protecting the services that it provides. One of the areas being reviewed as part of this process is the grants that are made to the parish councils. However, it would be unfair to simply remove the grants to the parish councils without considering the cost of the local services that the Borough Council provides in Tonbridge.

One solution is to introduce a Local Charge to pay directly for the local facilities and services provided by the Borough Council.

The Borough Council is therefore considering introducing a Local Charge which would cover the cost of the following: local parks, playgrounds, allotments, flower displays, events, cemeteries and churchyards.

The majority of Borough Council services, such as waste collection, recycling, street cleansing, environmental health, housing and country parks, are borough-wide and therefore would not form part of a Local Charge.

The way that Council Tax charges are applied for services provided by other organisations such as Kent County Council, Kent Police and Kent Fire & Rescue would be unchanged.

In addition to improving fairness, Local Charges would replace the need to give grants to parish and town councils, saving approximately £226,000 per year.

What would the Local Charge mean for residents?

As we are considering only a small number of services for a Local Charge, there would only be relatively small changes to individual Council tax bills. Tonbridge residents would see an increase to take account of all the local services they receive. Those with no local services in their areas would most likely see a modest reduction in their Borough precept. Parish councils are likely to need to replace their lost grant income, which may mean a small increase in Parish precept, depending on the area that you live in. We have produced a table showing the estimated changes that residents in each area of the borough are likely to see in their council tax.

The Borough Council's total income from council tax will be unaffected by these changes.

Our Questions and Answers section may help to answer any queries you may have. You may also like to read the Cabinet report and supporting documents.

Your chance to comment

We want to hear what you have to say about this proposal. In particular, we want to know whether you agree with this new approach and which services you think should be charged only to the local communities with those facilities or which local services should continue to be shared by the whole borough. The link below will take you to our questionnaire. All responses must be submitted by noon on Monday 20 June 2016. The Council will meet later this year to review all comments received and make a decision on the way forward.

Take part in the Questionnaire