Villagers 'will not foot the bill'

PUBLISHED: 12:49 09 January 2008 | UPDATED: 21:08 26 October 2009

VILLAGERS will not have to foot the bill of planned rents rises at a civic centre. That is the view of Welwyn Hatfield Council chiefs. The borough is in dispute with Welwyn Parish Council over plans to massively increase the rent it charges for the villag

VILLAGERS will not have to foot the bill of planned rents rises at a civic centre.

That is the view of Welwyn Hatfield Council chiefs.

The borough is in dispute with Welwyn Parish Council over plans to massively increase the rent it charges for the village hall.

The parish has called a public meeting for tomorrow to discuss the situation.

It fears council tax bills will have to rise sharply to pay for the increase - or charges made to users would have to be hiked.

But in a response to last week's WHT story the borough council issued a long statement denying the move would impact on villagers' pockets.

It also criticised the parish for staging a meeting while negotiations were still ongoing.

A borough council spokeswoman said increases imposed by the parish council on its precept to cover the rent rise would be 'given back' to villagers in the form of a 'special expenses' allowance.

The spokeswoman said: "In effect what will happen is that the parish element of the council tax will increase to cover the increased rental charge.

"This will be income to the borough council which will be credited back to Welwyn Parish as part of the special expenses calculation.

"The net change to the council taxpayer in Welwyn Parish will be nil. It will merely show on the statement as being an increased amount being raised by the parish and a corresponding reduced amount due to the borough."

The statement also suggested the parish could raise the rent it in turn charged users and so raise extra income.

It stressed it had a duty to collect a going rate for properties such as Welwyn Civic Centre and that rent levels were set by the District Valuer.

Since taking over the running of the centre - at the request of the then district council - the parish has been charged a peppercorn rent.

This was to have been reviewed in 2004 as part of the lease, but was not.

The new demand from the borough would be backdated to that year.

The parish has a full-repairing lease and makes no profit from its usage.

The public meeting is at the civic centre tomorrow, Thursday, from 7.30pm.

n For the borough council's full statement and answers to additional questions put to it by WHT editor Terry Mitchinson, log on to our website, www.whtimes24.co.uk

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