COUNCIL TAX BILLS

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It is that time of year again, when the annual bill from Cheshire West and Chester Council lands on our doorsteps. This year it was accompanied by a list of all the services provided by the Council, and a very impressive list it is too. In the past, there also used to be a whole bunch of leaflets: from the Council, from the Police Authority and from the Fire Service, all of them trying to explain how their budget for the new year was made up, why it had changed from the previous year, and how the Council Tax was calculated.
Most people, I suspect, put them straight in the bin (and no doubt wished they could do the same with the bill). Now the rules have changed, and if you want more information you have to search online.

The main elements of the Council Tax bill are the same from year to year: an amount to pay for Cheshire West and Chester Council services, plus separate amounts for Police (now controlled by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire), Fire and, for us in the Tarvin Parish area, Tarvin Parish Council.

This year there is a new line: the Charter Trustees for the City of Chester. On my bill (for a Band D property) their share of the bill is £5.49.
But who are they, and what is the money for?

When Cheshire West and Chester Council was created, it replaced the separate local councils serving Chester, Vale Royal and Ellesmere Port and Neston, as well as replacing Cheshire County Council. This was in 2009. At the same time the City of Chester Charter Trustees were established. Their job is to protect the "historic civic functions" in the area which was administered by Chester City Council at 31 March 2009.
Every councillor representing a ward which was within the old City of Chester area is a Charter Trustee — which of course includes our two local councillors, Cllr Hugo Deynem and Cllr John Leather. It is they who every year appoint the Lord Mayor of Chester, the Deputy Lord Mayor and the Sherriff of Chester.

Until May 2015, whoever was Lord Mayor was automatically also appointed as Chairman of Cheshire West and Chester Council. This meant they had a role which served the whole council area, and so the costs associated with the Lord Mayor and other civic dignitaries was funded directly by Cheshire West and Chester Council through the Council Tax. Everybody, whether they lived in Chester, Ellesmere Port or Northwich, paid a share of the cost.

However, after the last elections the Council decided to separate the posts of Lord Mayor and Chairman of the Council. The traditional roles of the Lord Mayor, Deputy Lord Mayor and Sheriffs only relate to the Chester City area, so it has now been decided that only those residents should pay towards the costs — which for the coming year are budgeted to be £250,000. Hence the £5.49 charge on my bill — and the corresponding charge on yours. Hence, also, the fact that the Lord Mayor will no longer attend local events in places outside the former City of Chester boundary, unless as a guest of their own local mayor.