Tory publicity stunt will cost thousands

After a significant increase in council tax payments for Salisbury residents this year, I understand why Conservative councillors would want to support their residents by taking action to avoid a similar unusually high increase in 2023/24.
The City’s 43.8% increase in the precept was indeed exceptionally high, but far from the highest in Wiltshire, e.g. Upton Scudamore’s was 49.88%, Shrewton 100.22%, Grimstead 135.66%.
However, the decision made by Cllrs Wills and McGrath to instigate action demanding a city-wide poll made no sense other than to generate politically motivated publicity. As a consequence of their decision, administration costs of thousands of pounds will be paid to Wiltshire Council from money which should have been available to support services for the residents they represent.
Legally, there can be no vote that will prevent a parish council from increasing their precept by more than 5%. If the outcome of the poll is positive it will only deliver a request that the administration engages in public consultation if an increase of more than 5% is proposed in the future.
Public consultation could have been requested through existing democratic processes. If a motion was put to the full council for the administration to offer a process of public consultation it could have been achieved with far less expense to taxpayers. I would support any suggestion of greater public consultation regardless of the proposed increase. Consultation should not be just triggered by the rate of increase but also a consideration of the impact on services.
I attended the meeting at the Guildhall to urge the group to defer their decision to demand a poll until the autumn, when an indication of the precept increase could be provided. The poll may not have been necessary. My appeal was dismissed by Cllr McGrath on the grounds the current administration could not be trusted.
Cllr McGrath told the Journal, “…There is a moral obligation for us as councillors to put democracy before lining our own pockets. All councillors should refrain from taking their allowance this year and use that £17,500 to contribute towards a parish poll…”
Thank you Cllr McGrath for reminding me of my moral obligations. I would in turn like to remind you of yours, to take important resident’s issues to Full Council meetings before wasting public money on unnecessary expenditure in demanding this poll.
As for Cllrs “…lining our own pockets…”, just in case there is any misunderstanding about the £17,500 quoted, that amount is the total expenses allowance shared between all 24 city councillors. This amounts to approximately £12.50 per week, which just about covers travel costs to and from meetings, including the extortionate parking charges charged by Wiltshire Council. The city’s councillors, as Cllr McGrath will know, commit many hours every week without receiving any payment whatsoever.

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