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> "Special expenses" for Shaw *** Donnington residents?
Neil
post Nov 8 2013, 10:18 AM
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Forum users in the Shaw c‏um Donnington area might be interested in minute 3069 from the September Parish Council meeting, if they are not already aware of the situation (I was not):

QUOTE
"Churchyard repairs and responsibility
The Chairman had been contacted by Sally Breach, the Church Administrator, requesting him to attend a meeting, at quite short notice, on 20th August with representatives of WBC, the PCC and other interested parties concerning very extensive repairs required to Shaw Churchyard. This was based on a report to the Church by the Church Commissioners dated October 2012. The Chairman and BA had attended this meeting. The repairs required involved pathways, listed tombs `and other graves, churchyard walls and the lych-gate. The Clerk was asked to write to Sally Breach concerning the length of time that had been taken to notify interested parties of the repairs and also to ask what progress had been made in tracing relatives of the graves needing attention and repairs.
The question of responsibility for these repairs had been extensively researched by the Clerk. Under the Local Government Act of 1972 the responsibility for maintenance of a closed churchyard could be passed from the PCC to the Parish Council who in turn could pass it on to the District Council. After closure of St.Mary’s Churchyard in February 1995 the responsibility for maintenance was passed in this way to Newbury District Council, and so to their successors West Berkshire Council. District Councils were empowered by the Local Government Act of 1996 to recover maintenance costs from council tax payers in the parish of a closed churchyard via the means of a ‘Special Expenses’ charge on their Council Tax bill.
The decision and responsibility for the repairs therefore solely lies with WBC who will recover the costs involved from ScD parishioners via the ‘Special Expenses’ levy on their Council Tax bill."


I wonder how much these "Special Expenses" might be for each parishioner?
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Simon Kirby
post Nov 8 2013, 02:09 PM
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QUOTE (Neil @ Nov 8 2013, 10:18 AM) *
I wonder how much these "Special Expenses" might be for each parishioner?

The precept is currently £36,000 and there are 600 households in the parish, so that's something like £60 per household at band "D". WBC's analysis suggested around £55 when I posted about this previously. That's actually quite a large precept already for a small council, but there are a few parishes paying around £80-90 per household every year. ScD PC could raise around £20k with a one-off £30 special expenses levy and you still wouldn't have the most expensive parish precept going.

Does the PC say how expensive those "very expensive" repairs are going to be? I would be genuinely a little concerned because that list of repairs could stretch to £200k if the Church Commissioners felt that money was no object, and a £300 special expenses levy would be painful indeed. If it's running into that kind of money perhaps the PC can take a loan out from the Public Works Loan Board and spread the cost over twenty years or so.

They might also like to write to the Church Commissioners asking for a contribution, but I believe the Church Commissioners are down to their last £4,000,000,000 so they might not be too interested in helping.


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On the edge
post Nov 8 2013, 02:10 PM
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It would be well worth questioning the need, very severely. This is another one of those cases where some quango or commission becomes very good at spending other people's money, often based on bogus safety grounds. Yes, we've all seen the shock horror stories about tomb stones that might fall and injure, but very few where its actually happened! So, simple answer here is simply to send a polite thanks but no thanks letter with a copy of this weeks NWN to the commission.


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Mr Brown
post Nov 8 2013, 05:01 PM
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This would be a great one for volunteer gardeners, there is a scheme in Action that used to look after churchyards.
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Andy Capp
post Nov 8 2013, 05:16 PM
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I wonder if the parish is under a chancel repair liability?
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Neil
post Nov 8 2013, 05:39 PM
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QUOTE (Simon Kirby @ Nov 8 2013, 03:09 PM) *
Does the PC say how expensive those "very expensive" repairs are going to be? I would be genuinely a little concerned because that list of repairs could stretch to £200k if the Church Commissioners felt that money was no object ...


No — your contribution to this thread has been the most informative thing I've found so far. Thank you.

I share your concern; why budget frugally, covering only critical expenses, if someone else is paying!

(Chancel liability: I would need to check the search documents, but I don't have them to hand at the moment.)
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Simon Kirby
post Nov 8 2013, 07:01 PM
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QUOTE (Neil @ Nov 8 2013, 05:39 PM) *
Thank you.

smile.gif


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MontyPython
post Nov 8 2013, 08:31 PM
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I understand that WBC has completed its normal style of consultation. It asked all the occupants of the graveyard and as it received no objections decided it had carte blanch to go ahead whatever the cost.
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Cognosco
post Nov 8 2013, 08:41 PM
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QUOTE (MontyPython @ Nov 8 2013, 08:31 PM) *
I understand that WBC has completed its normal style of consultation. It asked all the occupants of the graveyard and as it received no objections decided it had carte blanch to go ahead whatever the cost.


Well that would be an improvement on previous consultations - they usually just ask around the office I am led to believe? rolleyes.gif


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spartacus
post Nov 8 2013, 09:08 PM
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QUOTE (MontyPython @ Nov 8 2013, 08:31 PM) *
I understand that WBC has completed its normal style of consultation. It asked all the occupants of the graveyard and as it received no objections decided it had carte blanch to go ahead whatever the cost.

I do hope you're going to respond to the consultation that's going on at the moment regarding the various cuts in services?

The problem often is that people complain that the consultations are a farce, but when they get an opportunity to comment they can't be arsed to do anything anyway...

Take your pick from one of these:
Road Maintenance
School Crossing Patrols
Health Services
and several others to work your way through.. Knock yourself out.....
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blackdog
post Nov 8 2013, 10:23 PM
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I would guess that one expensive element of the repairs would be to the several chest tombs in the churchyard. These are listed buildings in their own right, which imposes a duty of repair and maintenance on the owners - which it seems is, in effect, WBC. While they may be able to flatten insecure gravestones, recycle them as paving, or just chuck them in a skip - they will have to sort out the chest tombs.

Without knowing details of the cost it's difficult to judge the best funding solution - but it seems that the parishioners of the civil parish are going to be held liable - not the parishioners of the much larger ecclesiastical parish. Or can WBC raise the precept over a larger area that covers part of another civil parish (much of the ecclesiastical parish is in the civil parish of Newbury)?

Can the parish (civil) council challenge the need for the repairs? For instance could they demand a lower cost solution or challenge the need for parts of the work? The Church of England has unique powers when it comes to listed building consents - they are exempt from local authority controls and operate their own in-house system. This may well mean that they demand a more expensive standard of, for instance, paving, than the WBC conservation people would permit - thus raising the cost. This may be fine when the church is raising the cash, but it's a different situation when the costs are being raised through taxation.

If the public are to foot the bill, it should be their representatives who decide what work is to be done (within the bounds the planning system), not the church.
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MontyPython
post Nov 8 2013, 10:34 PM
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I wonder if there can be an appeal against being forced to fund something associated with a religion that you do not believe in.
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blackdog
post Nov 8 2013, 10:42 PM
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QUOTE (MontyPython @ Nov 8 2013, 10:34 PM) *
I wonder if there can be an appeal against being forced to fund something associated with a religion that you do not believe in.

I doubt it if the religion happens to be the Church of England - which is integrated into the whole state set-up.

Disestablish the C of E and things might be different.

Can non-conformist churches and chapels dump their churchyard maintenance on the taxpayer in the same way?
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Simon Kirby
post Nov 8 2013, 11:04 PM
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This looks to be a useful point of reference.

It looks as though the responsibility for the maintenance is WBC's, and they choose what to do and how much to spend doing it, though if the church thinks the council is doing too little it can take action in court to compel the council.

It does seem a little odd that WBC don't have to consult the parish about the works and can just levy a charge on the parishioners, but that appears to be how it is, and it looks as though WBC really do have a duty to maintain the churchyard, it's monuments, paths, gates, and walls, all in good order.

It's worth making sure that the churchyard really is closed in the legal sense as required by the legislation - that is, has been closed for further burials by Order in Council.


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Neil
post Nov 9 2013, 10:02 AM
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Thanks to all of your for your thoughts and links.

(For what it might be worth, I did respond to a consultation on on-street parking charges, effectively saying that the evidence presented was insufficient to support the conclusions that they had drawn, and that there seemed to be a lack of proportionality in the approach adopted, but, whilst I think it was right to respond, I doubt it made much of a difference. smile.gif)
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MontyPython
post Nov 9 2013, 11:49 AM
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QUOTE (spartacus @ Nov 8 2013, 09:08 PM) *
I do hope you're going to respond to the consultation that's going on at the moment regarding the various cuts in services?

The problem often is that people complain that the consultations are a farce, but when they get an opportunity to comment they can't be arsed to do anything anyway...

Take your pick from one of these:
Road Maintenance
School Crossing Patrols
Health Services
and several others to work your way through.. Knock yourself out.....


You confuse having a consultation, and listening to the views of the public (the councils customers).

This is a rather easy one to have because the answer has effectively been decided - and the area where the public might have a different view hasn't been asked (convenient as usual as it is the answer WBC don't want)

So funding is reduced and savage cuts will have to be made (WBC will no doubt put protection of their chums jobs ahead of services though)

WBC will increase the charge to taxpayers by the maximum 2% allowed and will not take any Government funding available to reduce this amount. This is of of course the area where the public may have an opinion that could change things so it won't be asked!

Situation normal - pretend consultation.

They could save money by using customer suggestion letters as toilet paper, something they figuratively do already!
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blackdog
post Nov 9 2013, 04:18 PM
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QUOTE (MontyPython @ Nov 9 2013, 11:49 AM) *
WBC will increase the charge to taxpayers by the maximum 2% allowed and will not take any Government funding available to reduce this amount. This is of of course the area where the public may have an opinion that could change things so it won't be asked!


WBC are in a difficult situation - if they don't raise council tax they will get cash from the Government, but not as much as they will get by raising council tax.

So they can keep council tax down, but only by making more cuts.

Joe Public is, of course, convinced that WBC are wasteful, spending loads of dosh on back office functions that could be cut with no impact on Joe Public - and is incensed when cuts are proposed that do have an impact on Joe.

In short we want to pay less and get as much if not more. I note that WBC approve of this approach as one of their cost cutting schemes is to renegotiate contracts.

Meanwhile the Lib-Dems tell us they are against the cuts - but offer no alternative cuts for us to assess and compare.
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On the edge
post Nov 9 2013, 04:57 PM
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QUOTE (blackdog @ Nov 9 2013, 04:18 PM) *
WBC are in a difficult situation - if they don't raise council tax they will get cash from the Government, but not as much as they will get by raising council tax.

So they can keep council tax down, but only by making more cuts.

Joe Public is, of course, convinced that WBC are wasteful, spending loads of dosh on back office functions that could be cut with no impact on Joe Public - and is incensed when cuts are proposed that do have an impact on Joe.

In short we want to pay less and get as much if not more. I note that WBC approve of this approach as one of their cost cutting schemes is to renegotiate contracts.

Meanwhile the Lib-Dems tell us they are against the cuts - but offer no alternative cuts for us to assess and compare.


Yes, it is a very serious situation, where does not collecting legitimate fees come into this?


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Neil
post Nov 9 2013, 06:00 PM
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I have emailed the church office, and will post back should I receive a response.

QUOTE
Dear Sir / Madam

I am a resident of the parish of Shaw cu‏m Donnington, and I noted in the most recent parish council minutes that “very extensive repairs” to St. Mary’s churchyard are required. (http://www.shawcumdonnington.org.uk/uploads/Minutes%20September%202013.docx, at minute 3069)

It seems that the bill for such work is likely to fall with the residents of the parish, through a “special expenses” levy on our council tax bill.

I would be grateful for any information which you might have on these repairs, especially an estimated cost of repair work (or, indeed, a list of items, for which repair is considered necessary), and a copy of the October 2012 report by the Church Commissioners, or a pointer in the right direction to this, as I was not able to find this on the church website.

I am most grateful for any assistance which you can offer here.

Yours faithfully,

Neil
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MontyPython
post Nov 9 2013, 06:07 PM
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QUOTE (blackdog @ Nov 9 2013, 04:18 PM) *
WBC are in a difficult situation - if they don't raise council tax they will get cash from the Government, but not as much as they will get by raising council tax.

So they can keep council tax down, but only by making more cuts.

......



Indeed but as this is an option, less Tax rise but deeper cuts, shouldn't it be part of the consultation?

Once again only partial information put forward as those in the Club (Politicians and WBC management) don't want it. So the public who pay the taxes can go feck themselves.

If they put the full facts to the tax payer we might decide to have the rise and less cuts, but at least we would be involved. No wonder people don't bother to turn out and vote when all is "stitched up" as usual.
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