Drainage Board bill could affect Sedgemoor taxpayers

Bridgwater Mercury: Drainage Board bill could affect Sedgemoor taxpayers Drainage Board bill could affect Sedgemoor taxpayers

COUNCIL tax payers are being asked to stump up more cash to the organisation which manages water levels in the area.

The Drainage Board has asked Sedgemoor District Council for a massive 11.6% increase in funding for its work which it describes as “managing water levels for the protection of people, property and the environment.”

And the council says that will have a knock-on effect for taxpayers.

Councils like Sedgemoor, which contain a lot of wetlands, have to pay a drainage board levy: a cash pot set by the board to pay for services in that area.

This is not capped funding, meaning there is no limit to what the board can charge and the council must comply.

The amount has increased between 2009/10 and 2012/13 by an average of 2% yearly, but it was revealed at a meeting of the council’s executive committee last week that this year there has been an increase of 11.6%.

Kerry Rickards, chief executive of Sedgemoor District Council, said: “When we look at it all together, we are asking council tax payers to essentially absorb this 11.6% increase.”

Currently there are drainage boards for each catchment area, such as the Parrett Drainage Board, but these are amalgamating. The extra increase is to help pay for that amalgamation and includes the cost of amalgamating the Axe and Brue drainage boards.

Cllr Dawn Hill added: “It’s extremely difficult to balance the budget when we have a third party coming in and impacting on it significantly.”

Cllr Anne Fraser said: “The chief executive of the drainage board said SCC was requesting more funding for a contribution for river dredging and flood prevention. This has to come from somewhere and it will have an impact on Sedgemoor.”

A spokesman for Sedgemoor District Council said the increase is unusually high and will be funded through council tax. It should mean running costs are less down the line, but that will be in a few years.

The spokesman added: “The Drainage Board pays the Environment Agency to do work, such as flood prevention, so Sedgemoor’s taxpayers have already paid about £1.4million to the EA.”

A Drainage Board spokesman said the increase this year has mainly been caused by the government formula which calculates Sedgemoor District Council’s contribution.

He added: “The change has also occurred as a result of a government driven amalgamation. This has generally been outside of the Board’s control.

“The overall increase could be about £115k, actually about 10.2%. Of this increase, Sedgemoor had already anticipated and built in £112k, they have increased business rates for solar farms generating an additional £100k plus in business rate income. The only ‘real’ increase is £12k from Parrett if that is approved.”

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