Q. Does this only affect Tonbridge residents?
A. No. The introduction of a Local Charge would affect every household in the borough. The impact varies depending on a household's location. We have created a table showing the effect in different parts of the borough.
Q. Why has this list of services been selected?
A. The services selected for inclusion are the local services provided by Parish Councils in other parts of the borough.
In the main, they are local play areas, sports grounds and sports pitches, open spaces, closed churchyards and cemeteries. The facilities are predominantly used by local residents. Some facilities have been excluded because they are not predominantly used by local residents, their usage is, in fact, much wider. Therefore the costs should be shared by residents across the entire borough. Tonbridge Castle and grounds; Country Parks at both Haysden and Leybourne Lakes; Larkfield Leisure Centre; Tonbridge Pool; Angel Centre; and Poult Wood Golf Course are examples of facilities that have been excluded from the local charge.
Q. Why don't you stop providing these services completely? Or pass them on to the Parish Councils?
A. The Parish Councils currently provide the local services listed in their areas, and the Borough Council provides these same services in Tonbridge in the absence of a Town Council.
Withdrawing from the provision of these local services in Tonbridge is not straightforward, although one option could potentially be to reduce the cost by scaling them down and this would mean the Local Charge would be lower. For example, we could scale down the display of Christmas lights, hanging baskets or events in Tonbridge.
Q. How will it affect me?
A. We have created a table showing the potential effect in different parts of the borough.
Q. Will people have to pay the local charge if they don't use the services?
A. Yes. Council Tax is a tax and not a charge for services. Services have to be provided whether or not you use them.
Q. Is the increase in Council Tax that a Parish Council approves for its area 'capped'?
A. Parish Councils are not presently restricted in how much they can increase their Council Tax.
Q. Will the Local Charge be 'capped' in terms of future increases?
A. Any increase in the Council's budgeted income from Council Tax will continue to be restricted. The Local Charge (or special expenses) would be included in that income.
Q. If your income from Council Tax will not increase, why will there be savings?
A. The Local Charge, if introduced, will provide equity across the borough in terms of paying for local services. The Council will be able to stop paying grants to parish councils to provide equity, saving £226K per year.
Q. How do other councils in West Kent deal with this?
A. Tunbridge Wells operates a scheme of Local Charges (or special expenses) like the one proposed. Every part of Sevenoaks District has a Parish or Town Council and the need for Local Charges or grants has not arisen.
Q. Is this all about saving money?
A. Saving money is one of the reasons for considering the introduction of a Local Charge. However the Council feels that it is very important to promote equity across the borough in respect of how much residents pay towards the cost of local services. Councillors have recognised that the system is currently unfair.
Q. When will the decision be taken?
A. The Cabinet will consider the results of the consultation at a special meeting on 28 July and, taking all matters into account, will recommend the way forward. However, the final decision will take place at a Council meeting to be held on 1 November 2016.
Q. When will this be implemented?
A. If the Council decides to go ahead with the Local Charge, Council Tax bills issued from April 2017 will include the adjustments.
If you have any other questions, please email us via firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a message on 01732 876086, and we will get back to you.