Rise in charges ‘slipped through’ by South Gloucestershire Council

February 27 2019
Rise in charges ‘slipped through’ by council

RISES of up to 20 per cent in charges for a variety of South Gloucestershire Council services have been “slipped through”, opposition councillors claim.

Larger than usual hikes in fees for renting DVDs from the library, compost bins, brake tests and planning application fees have been approved by the council’s cabinet.

Council policy is to raise its discretionary service fees and charges by five per cent each year but a series of far higher increases have been approved this year.

Some new charges will also be introduced, and some existing fees reduced, as the council seeks to cover its costs and bring its pricing schedule into line with neighbouring authorities.

Increases due to take effect from March 2 unless they are challenged by a council scrutiny committee include:

*A new £40 charge to request historic planning applications.

*A 5.2% rise for voluntary brake tests and headlamp alignment checks, at £12.20 per axle and £18.30 per check, respectively.

*Compost bins will cost £6, a price rise of 20 per cent.

*Reusable nappy kits and booster kits up 13% to £151.40 and £62.10, respectively.

*Library fees rise by up to £1.20 for book reservations and DVD rentals. The maximum fine will be reduced to £10, however, with no more charges for audio books and overdue audio visuals for children and young adults.

*Licences for a house of multiple occupation up £60 to £656. Cost of a landlord fit and proper check will fall by £10 to £35.

*New charge of £165 for restaurants wanting their food hygiene rating re-assessed following a food hygiene rating of zero to four.

Planning advice fee increases proposed from April 2, pending the response of planning agents to a council survey, include:

*New £50 charge to check whether permitted development rights have been removed.

*Charge to find out if planning permission is required up £10.80 to £115.

*Pre-planning advice charges of £110 for household development and £200 for a listed building.

*Pre-planning advice for major applications for 500 or more homes rises to £12,000.

The timing of the decision on the charges, after the final council meeting before local government elections in May, has prompted criticism from Liberal Democrat councillors.

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Lib Dem recycling spokesman, Dodington councillor Tony Davis, said: “These changes have been slipped through after the Conservatives cancelled the last council meeting before the election, because there was apparently nothing of importance left to discuss.”

The Lib Dems also pointed out that green waste charges were still in place, despite the Conservative administration promising in 2015 to phase them out.

A spokesman for the council said it keeps its fees and charges under “regular review”.

He said the council’s fees for pre-application planning advice were only a small fraction of the cost of bringing a development forward and will stay well within the normal range compared with other authorities if they are adopted.

Having reviewed the cost of providing pre-application advice, we’ve found that an increase in charges is needed to fully cover the costs of the service,” said the spokesperson.

The alternative to not increasing the fees would be to stop providing these services, as it would be unreasonable for planning costs to be met by council taxpayers.”