Slush fund claim in park plans row

FYLDE councillors have branded plans to spread the cost of certain parks and gardens across the whole of the Fylde as "double taxation" and claimed the proposals would create a council "slush fund".

The council wants to label certain facilities – such as Lowther Gardens and Ashton Gardens – as "strategic assets" and charge them across everyone in the borough, while at the same time transferring around 30 open spaces to St Annes and Kirkham Town Councils.

But at a meeting of the council's Policy Development Scrutiny Committee councillors labelled the move a "double taxation" after a report showed that the council planned to use the "headroom to sustain services", rather than pass savings on to tax payers.

The move was described by Coun John Davies as a way to create a "slush fund" for the council.

Freckleton ward Coun Kiran Mulholland said: "At the end of the day call it headroom, call it whatever, money comes out my pocket and my residents' pockets and we've all had enough.

"My residents can't afford it."

And Coun Elaine Silverwood, who represents Kirkham, added: "To me headroom will remain as double taxation – I'm sorry but I can't be convinced that it's anything but."

But Jennifer Cross, who prepared the report on behalf of the council, said: "I would not regard (headroom) as double taxation – it's a way of changing how you use that funding."

At the moment, residents in Kirkham, St Annes and Lytham pay special expenses while those in the rural parishes pay a parish precept for their open spaces.

If the transfer of assets and change in "strategic asset" charges goes ahead, rural parish residents could see a 43 rise in their band D tax bills while Kirkham residents could face a band D tax rise of 62.

"It's the council tax payer that is being screwed by these proposals,"

said Coun Paul Hayhurst, who represents Elswick and Little Eccleston.

"I think it would have been courtesy to have spoken to the parishes particularly as you are recommending a 25 per cent increase in council tax for assets in Lytham St Annes."

The committee voted to recommend to the council's cabinet that separate tables showing the cost of the transfer of assets and the cost for strategic assets be drawn up so that the two issues can be discussed separately.

St Annes Town Council have voted to defer any decision on the transfer until May, while Kirkham Town Council have asked for more information.