A DECISION by Calstock Parish Council to increase its precept by more than 5% in April was ‘not taken lightly’, according to its chairman.

The parish council agreed to raise its precept — the portion of council tax decided by the parish council that goes to funding facilities in the parish — by 7.5% for the 2020/21 financial year, necessitated by the county council devolving more responsibilities onto parish councils.

Over the past several years, parish councils in Cornwall have taken over the financial burdens of various facilities, including car parks and public toilets, in a bid to save them for public use instead of being closed by Cornwall Council in a bid to save money.

But with Calstock Parish Council taking on more responsibility, with less funding from the county council, it has had to make the difficult decision to raise the precept in order to help fund the added responsibilities.

The increase of 7.5%, equates to a total of £1,969.38 — 11p a week for a band D property.

Despite the increase, Calstock Parish Council said the precept was still lower than most of the parish councils in Cornwall, with the average band D property in Cornwall paying £124.65 per annum and only £83.47 for band D properties in the parish of Calstock.The funding recieved from the precept is used to maintain the recreation grounds, cemeteries, public toilets, car parks, Calstock waterfront area and salaries for the four council staff members.It was agreed by the parish council at its recent meeting that the extra money for the coming financial year would be used for looking into becoming single use plastic free by the end of 2020 and other climate change projects, since the council declared a climate emergency last year.The extra money would also go towards maintenance of the car parks at Harrowbarrow and Calstock.Calstock Parish Council clerk Sue Lemon said: ‘We are also continuing in our pursuit of owning Fosters Field (in Gunnislake), so it’s protected and kept for the community.‘One of the main aims is to buy grass cutting equipment so our workmen will carry out the grass cutting instead of paying a contractor, which gives us more flexibility and control of the work.‘We are also looking at extending the cemetery at Calstock, which also involves extra funding on top of what we would normally spend on the cemeteries.’Chairman of the parish council Cllr Jim Wakem said: ‘It’s not a decision we’ve taken lightly. We’ve been given a lot more responsibilities from Cornwall Council — we’ve taken over the car parks and the public toilets from them to keep them available for the parish.‘We realise everyone has got to tighten their belts but these were unexpected costs put onto us as a parish council. We are doing our best to keep the costs down but things are getting more and more costly to run and maintain. However, our precept is still lower in comparison to a lot of other parish councils in Cornwall.‘The maintenance of things like the toilets and car parks is quite costly and we get a fair bit of vandalism that we have to keep paying out for, so all of that costs extra.’