Councillors are planning to take money from the rich and redistribute it to the poor as they slash the amount of cash they give to the city’s network of parish and town councils.
The amount of subsidy that MK Council gives to the parishes has already been cut back from £776,000 to £530,000 in 2019-20, as the borough passes on central Government reductions to the lowest tier of councils.
Those parishes now face a budget decision of their own: whether to raise their own part of the council tax to fill the gap, or to make cuts to their budgets. There will be transitional support in place to soften the blow, a meeting heard.
Now Milton Keynes Council’s Labour-controlled Cabinet has agreed to slice another £205,000 from the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme’s pot of money. The network of 48 parishes pay for sports centres, grass cutting, and other community services.
But council leaders also agreed, at a meeting on Tuesday (November 5), to favour those areas of Milton Keynes that have the greatest number of poor people.
The proposal to take money from the rich and give to the poor, in the style of the fictional Robin Hood character, will need to be ratified at a meeting of the Full Council.
Cllr Rob Middleton (Lab, Wolverton), the council’s budget and resources supremo, said the underlying issue forcing a decision was a reduction in the amount of money the council receives from central government.
Background papers presented to the Cabinet said the council’s funding from Whitehall has reduced by 90 per cent from £61million to £5.5million since 2013-14.
“As we face making cuts, we will focus on the areas where it is needed the most,” he said. The money will be allocated to those areas which rank highest for the amount of deprivation, he said.
Cllr Nigel Long (Lab, Bletchley West), said the parish council in West Bletchley supported the move even though it meant its subsidy is reduced by a table-topping 36 per cent.
Cllr Long said: “West Bletchley has a commitment to redistribution despite the hit to its finances.” He said that part of MK was relatively richer and that “places like Woughton should have much more protected.”
Cllr Moriah Priestley (Lab, Central MK) emphasised that the borough has created funds to help the parishes pay for one-off projects. “They have other sources of funding,” she said.
The Cabinet also agreed to keep a fund of £100,000 to help people who have difficulty paying their council taxes, and to only charge 20 per cent of the tax to people on low incomes. Cllr Middleton said other councils make the poorest pay 80 per cent of the tax.
The Cabinet also expects to have to write off £1.161million in unpaid bills at the end of the 2021 tax year, which sets its “collection rate” at an unchanged 98.4 per cent. Councillors claim that this compares favourably with other areas.