A PARISH poll organised by concerned residents will seek to persuade a County Durham council to make savings rather than increase council tax.

Voters say every local authority in the country is cutting costs except Peterlee Town Council which they claim has the highest council tax bill for an authority of its kind in the country.

Last year, the council increased its precept by 7.7 per cent.

Loading article content

This year, councillors decreased their share of council tax by one per cent. However, resident Ian Hall, who has spent months examining the authority's finances, believes the authority urgently needs to cut costs to prevent further large increases in the future or being forced to use up its reserves.

He said: "The town council are only responsible for our parks, playing fields, cemetery, allotments and some community centres.

"However, when the town council set their budget for this financial year, it was estimated that their gross expenditure, for meeting this minimum level of responsibility, increased by £119,000 to an unbelievable £2,146,212."

Mr Hall said band F households now paid £448 a year to the council.

More than a dozen residents attended a meeting in December last year to quiz councillors on the authority's finances.

In order to hold an official poll, residents organised a parish meeting last month which was attended by around 20 voters.

The poll asks residents: "Do you demand that the town council freezes the town council precept until 2020, that efficiency savings, equating to 30 per cent of the town council budget, are made over the next five years, and that no future increase in precept of two per cent or over can be made without a 'yes' vote from a referendum?

Mr Hall added: "A good turn out is essential in order to send a clear message to the town council that the electorate expect them to reduce costs, make significant savings and provide value for money."

A council spokesman said any comment on the poll would need to come from the mayor.

Peterlee mayor Cllr Mary Cartwright has not responded to requests to comment on the issue.

Polling stations will open between 4pm and 9pm on Thursday, April 21.

Electors will not receive a polling card for the poll and should attend the polling station closest to their home address.

Polling stations will be situated at: Dene House Primary School, Manor Way; Oakerside Community Centre, Oakerside Drive; The Pavilion, Helford Road; East Durham College, Willetby Grove; Howletch Lane Primary, Pennine Drive; East Durham Trust Community House, Yoden Road; Acre Rigg Academy, Acre Rigg Road.