An inflation-busting precept rise is set to be imposed on people living in Keighley.
And the 72.6 per cent hike is being partly blamed on the town’s loss-making civic centre, which is £74,000 in the red.
Keighley Town Council will tonight vote on a recommendation to increase its annual charge on band B properties from £18.90 to £32.62, equivalent to an extra 26 pence per week.
Councillors say the increase has also been forced on them by Government policy.
But the proposal has been condemned by Keighley MP Kris Hopkins, who said it seemed “foolhardy and unjustified”.
“I’m afraid the town council’s misguided attempt to blame the Government for its own ineptitude can be interpreted as nothing other than an act of gross desperation,” he added.
Keighley mayor Coun George Metcalf and town council finance committee chairman Coun John Phillip blamed the deficit at the civic centre, which was launched last spring, on the national economy.
Coun Metcalf said: “It was hoped the civic centre would break even as soon as possible. Any new business takes two to three years to become established and, due to the economic downturn, this is proving a problem.”
He emphasised the council had not raised its precept for years, and he anticipated the Government may limit the amount by which town and parish councils could raise their precepts.
Coun Phillip said Government restructuring had slashed the town council’s tax base, by taking away its income from council tax benefit relief. He said: “We’ve lost 26 per cent of our income. That is being plugged with a £107,000 grant, but there’s no guarantee we’ll get the grant next year.”
Mr Hopkins said: “I’ve received a number of representations from Keighley residents who are understandably concerned about the financial direction the town council is taking.
“I’ve written to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles outlining these concerns, and I’m due to meet him to discuss them.”
The town council precept will be included in the overall council tax bill, together with sums levied by Bradford Council, West Yorkshire Police and West Yorkshire Fire Authority.
Speaking at the parish council’s latest full meeting, chairman Coun John Huxley said: “We’ve never put our precept up by this amount before.”