Harborough District Council ‘misled’ voters on tax rise says Tory defector

Cllr Mark Graves, back row second from left, joined Liberal Democrats and other members of the Save Our Bus Services campaign to gather signatures in Market Harborough town centre.
Cllr Mark Graves, back row second from left, joined Liberal Democrats and other members of the Save Our Bus Services campaign to gather signatures in Market Harborough town centre.

The controlling Conservatives on Harborough District Council misled the public on the scale of the last council tax rise – claims a former Conservative councillor.

Cllr Mark Graves, a chartered accountant who has now joined the Liberal Democrats, said the public were told the district council tax rise would be 1.5 per cent for 2018/19.

In fact, the district council rise shown on residents’ bills was 3.3 per cent.

“Everyone was told the rise would be 1.5 per cent – we were even told that in a private Conservative group meeting” said Cllr Graves. “So why is it 3.3 per cent on people’s bills?”

He said Cllr Neil Bannister, the district council leader, said “special expenses” had been added to the bill.

“As a chartered accountant and a council tax payer I find that unacceptable” said Cllr Graves. “I would like to see an apology from the leader of the district council.”

But Cllr Bannister told the Mail there was nothing to apologise for.

“The council tax increase was 1.5 per cent – that’s what the council voted for” he said. “The special expenses are charges to the areas that don’t have their own parish or town council to spend money.”

He said the additional expenses were always added to the council tax bill and for Cllr Graves to accuse the council now of misleading the public was “mischief”.

But he conceded that an alternative way of telling the public what they would pay in council tax “is something to consider for future budgets”.

Cllr Graves, who represents Broughton Astley on Harborough District Council, also believe that the council has for years given proportionately more time, ideas and money to Market Harborough than to the settlements in the west of the district.

He claimed that was reflected in many issues, from the district’s sports centre plans, which made no mention of Broughton Astley’s proposed sports centre, to the poor safeguarding of some open spaces in the village.

Cllr Bannister responded he could think straight away of four areas where Broughton Astley received “specific benefits” from the district council.

He listed the council’s maintenance of the disproportionately high number of open spaces in the village; the transfer of land to the parish council for a bus stop on Croft Way; the village’s free car park operated by the district council and the very generous developer contributions – negotiated by the council – for a village sports hall.