We’ve set the 2013/14 Council Tax

Capture 2013-14 Tax Rates


Last Friday (1st March) I had the honour of chairing the Council Tax Setting Committee of South Somerset District Council. This doesn’t happen often (indeed ever), but the Police were so late setting their budget that it wasn’t available at the normal Council Meeting. Hence my sitting on a sub-committee with 5 colleagues (in political balance, of course).

As you see, Brympton’s precept was among the lowest. Indeed most parishes went for an increase in tax. Various good reasons, but this is probably the last uncapped year for parishes and I worry we may have missed out – Lufton’s new village hall won’t build itself and it would be better, in my view, to spread the cost collecting over many years rather than borrowing.

The trouble with a low precept is the taxpayer ends up paying for paperwork instead of projects. Ah well.

Working hard for Yeovil, using all means possible

I thought you might be interested in reading the response from DCLG which I received recently, especially once you know the back-story.

We had noticed that the business rates charged on retail units in Yeovil town centre were high, and very much higher than Peel Retail Park (just off the A30 towards Sherborne). This huge annual cost is putting businesses off moving to Yeovil. As an example this chart shows the current valuation for Vicarage Walk (the Quedam). I’ve deliberately hidden the specifics as this is highly commercially sensitive but, yes, one business actually pays more than £200,000 every year in property taxes !! (Not to SSDC, I hasten to add. We just collect it for the exchequer).

The way these are set is “odd” with different parts of the shop charged at different rates. For example, some parts of a large, well-established outlet are charged at £9,000 per square metre !!! Remember that it’s the larger unit which might be attractive to the national chains stores that shoppers want to see in the town centre.

Vicarage Walk Business Rates

The last review in 2010 was based on rental values from 2008 when rents were arguably at their peak, particularly true for the Quedam Centre. Since that time, premises left empty by failed businesses and movement to out of town sites has resulted in many larger units with high rateable values being almost impossible to re-let. Worse, the managers operating the property portfolio are given bonuses according to the value (or nominal rent) of the property, not the actual rent collected. That means it’s in their interests to keep pushing business costs up.

The Government’s announcement postponing the 2015 business rates revaluation until 2017 is incredibly bad news for Yeovil Town Centre. Although clearly there will be winners and losers, on balance the declining rental values in the high street  means that businesses in these locations will now be paying the current level of business rates, based on unrealistic rent levels,  for another four years.

In the light of all this, I spoke to Danny Alexander MP and to Don Foster MP earlier this year, asking them to take another look at the mechanism of setting rates from rents, if the latter were being inflated by managers. I also asked them to look at the “cliff edge” effect whereby in a small-medium town, out-of-town rates on large retail units were set so much lower than the High Street. The enquiry was passed on straight away, one of the advantages of talking directly to ministers.

The response seems to miss the point completely. As you will see, the Treasury feels it has done enough. Some specific relief for new-build shops and for hardship or last-man-standing businesses. I will keep at this but nothing good yet.


South Somerset fly-tipping figures fall

Fly-tipping figures released today [15 October 2013] by the government show incidents county-wide have dropped by 497 or 8.7% from 5,687 to 5,190.

South Somerset’s fall has carried on into the first three months of this financial year, down by 114 to 338 on the same period last year, and down by 94 on January-March 2013. All Somerset districts saw improved figures in 2012/13; as well as South Somerset, Mendip was down 73 to 1,631, Sedgemoor down 306 to 1,161, Taunton Deane down 42 to 646, and West Somerset down 71 to 93.

The improvements were first reported to the Somerset Waste Board four months ago in June, and follows a path previously predicted by board chairman Cllr Derek Yeomans. The fall has coincided with greater efforts to deter fly-tippers, through new equipment, warning signs and further training for district enforcement officers, backed by Somerset County Council.

South Somerset and other councils are moving to reduce the fly-tipping “supply” by urging residents and businesses to check if those removing rubbish – such as builders – have the correct waste carrier’s licence. Councillor Jo Roundell Greene, Portfolio Holder for Environment and Economic Development said, “Building on this good news, this district will continue to fight fly-tipping, with our enforcement staff leading the way in tackling this crime. You can play a vital role by reporting suspicious activity and giving evidence, as this remains a tough crime to deter or prosecute. We must ensure that our countryside is kept looking beautiful. One thing we can all do is to ensure our own household or business rubbish is not fly-tipped; just ask anyone taking it away – builders, gardeners and other tradespeople – for their waste carrier licence.”

Clearing up Somerset’s fly-tipping costs South Somerset and the other district councils a total of around £150,000 a year, with the County Council contributing about £36,000 in 2012/13.

Food recycled for cooking … and lighting

Gas generation starts at Walpole Digester


CaptureDeliveries of food waste to the anaerobic digester commenced on 20th August as part of the commissioning process. The amount of food waste will be increased gradually over the commissioning period until the point where all food waste arisings collected by SWP from the county will be received.

The plant is already producing gas in low quantities. The first of the gas engines is being installed and will be able to commence electricity production once the volume of food input and gas output have increased sufficiently over the coming weeks. The commissioning period is expected to last 3-6 months.

For more details of the plant click here

Lib Dems Present Bus Petition To County Council

Residents and Lib Dems campaigning together

Yeovil’s Liberal Democrat County Councillors are telling Somerset County Council think again over their proposed bus service cuts.

A letter was sent covering 286 signatures from several local petitions expressing concern that Somerset County Council that the number 11 bus service could be cut.

On 6th January Lib Dem councillors joined local residents at a bus shelter on Larkhill Road, Yeovil, to call for the South West Coaches’ service to be kept, labeling the cuts as ‘short-sighted’ and pointing out that it would cause a significant impact to residents in Brympton and other areas.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat Opposition Group, Councillor Sam Crabb who represents residents in the Brympton Division commented:

“This petition shows the strength of local feeling against proposed Conservative County Council bus cuts. The Council now needs to listen to the hundreds of residents who have said during this consultation that these cuts are a mistake.

“We question the availability of alternative services for many bus users and local residents which connect the key locations which the number 11 route services.

“Additionally, local constituents in our Divisions have highlighted to us their frustration with the County Council for once again rolling out a public consultation of this nature during the holiday period. Conducting public consultations at this time of year does not ensure a fair and full response for many residents who will be affected by the proposed Bus Service reductions.”

Somerset Waste Partnership – Flooding and severe weather

Somerset Waste Partnership continue to collect waste from communities cut off by the floods, working with local volunteers and in some cases with the Red Cross and Fire Brigade to use their amphibious vehicles. 

  • So far, collections have focused on the collection of refuse for disposal, but arrangements are also being made to start collections of materials for recycling, where these can be handled in clear sacks that will be provided.
  • Arrangements have also been made to provide extra waste collections to support emergency centres and skips to assist with volunteer clean-ups where flood water has receded.
  • There is an increase in bulky items, such as damaged carpets and furniture, being delivered to recycling centres, which it is expected will increase over the coming weeks and months.

New YTFC Traffic Page

Your local councillors (Parish, District and County) are working together with YTFC to try to reduce the match day problems, but we recognise that any fix is dependent on help from the Police and from County Highways. The councils’ main concerns are:

  • safety for pedestrians,
  • getting the bus route roads working and
  • allowing residents to get in and out.

The key messages to supporters are:

  • Walk if you can, car share if you can’t
  • Try to park at the ground
  • Park well clear of bus stops, crossings and junctions so that the roads can work

The new page (click here) explains all.

Dial “101” for non-emergency calls

NON EMERGENCY telephone calls to police the number are now made by dialling “101”.

There will be flyers and posters going up soon but I thought you might find this useful, please feel free to pass it on.

Remember, 101 is for non emergency calls ……………999 in an emergency situation remains unchanged. Click on the blue graphic for the police web page on this.