Who decides what your Council Tax bill will be (on Wirral) for 2015/16?
As I write this blog, the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel is meeting in the Council Chamber in Huyton to decide on the police precept for council tax payers on Merseyside for 2015/16. The Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside Jane Kennedy has asked for a 1.95% increase (compared to the 2014/15 figure) for the police precept on Council Tax. This extra 1.95% raises just over £1 million more than last year.
The Police and Crime Panel (10 councillors (2 are from Wirral) plus 2 independent people) have to consider her proposed precept and report back to the Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside Jane Kennedy by 8th February 2015. Although the Police and Crime Panel can veto the precept, this requires a two-thirds vote and is unlikely to happen. The details are in this report and here’s the agenda. This public meeting can be filmed for the first time.
Merseyside Waste and Recycling Authority will set their budget on Friday 6th February 2015, the papers for that meeting have been published and the budget is agenda item 7 (vii). They then levy the Merseyside councils (including Wirral Council).
Wirral Council has two meetings. Wirral Council’s Cabinet will meet on the 10th February to make a recommendation on the budget to a meeting of all councillors that will meet on the 24th February 2015.
The Merseytravel Committee (part of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority) will set a budget on the 12th February 2015 followed by a meeting of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority on the 13th February 2015. Merseytravel levy each of the Merseyside councils, it’s not a precept.
All 66 Wirral Council councillors will then be invited to a meeting on the 24th February 2015 to decide the budget and the council tax for 2015/16 will be set subject to the outcome of the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority meeting on the 26th February.
The Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority (18 councillors (4 are from Wirral)) decide the fire precept element of the Council Tax at their budget meeting on 26th February 2015.
In addition to the above there are small amounts added to council tax for flood defence (goes to the Environment Agency), port health (decided at the Mersey Port Health Committee on the 15th January) and sea fisheries.
For the first time, all (except one the Merseyside Waste and Recycling Authority) of these budget meetings can be filmed, audio recorded, reported on live by anyone at the public meeting because the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 came into force last year.
One recent change called the Local Authorities (Standing Orders) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2014 which came into force on 25th February 2014 last year means that all votes on budget items, amendments et cetera have to be made individually by councillors and recorded by name in the minutes whether they voted for, against or abstained.
This seemed to cause a bit of difficulty (and explanation) for Wirral Council last year as their budget meeting was actually on 25th February 2014 (the day it came into force) although they got a letter from Brandon Lewis dated 4th February 2014 warning them of this it seemed to take some councillors by surprise that they would be voted individually by name rather than by show of hands.
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