MAJOR improvements to public facilities in Ilkley could be completed if residents agreed to pay a few pence a week on top of their Council Tax.

A local precept, amounting to no more than five pounds a year for each family, could see public toilets refurbished and maintained and a much needed skating area for local youths could be built in the Riverside Gardens.

But parish councillors have been accused of wringing their hands and complaining about local facilities instead of taking steps to improve them.

At a public consultation meeting before the parish council finance and general purposes committee, Ilkley Civic Society chairman Bob Tilley said that Ilkley, as one of the largest parish councils in the country, should raise its own funds through a local precept.

"It is a disgrace that the parish council cannot get its mind around levying for a rate," said Mr Tilley.

Parish council chairman Audrey Brand said that raising a local precept could involve taking responsibility for a host of services, including cemeteries, The King's Hall, tourism, grass verges and bus shelters, currently taken care of by Bradford Council.

"We have discussed precepting and there is a great amount of work into doing the background. In principle it might sound quite good. But when you see the whole list of items that money would be going to fund it is quite overwhelming," said Coun Brand.

Ilkley Labour Party chairman John Martinez accused parish councillors of passing the buck on local issues.

"We had a problem with the public toilets but all that happens is that you get a big noise saying that Bradford is not doing anything, but if they had the money parish councillors could do it themselves," said Mr Martinez. "It is convenient to pass the buck to Bradford," he added.

In the past, councillors have argued that many Ilkley residents would feel resentful at having to pay a local rate on top of the already expensive Bradford Council Tax.

But Mr Tilley said that people living in parishes outside Ilkley in an area controlled by Harrogate had to pay treble rates to the town council, North Yorkshire and their parish council.

"I would be happy to pay double rates if I could see the parish council doing something," said Mr Tilley.

After the meeting, Labour Parish Councillor Roy Fox said he was in favour of a precept for local projects which would cost Ilkley families only a few pence a week.

"I would be in favour of doing it. We could work for the community and it would be better than moaning," said Coun Fox.

He said that things such as a skating area in the riverside gardens could be created from a one-off precept.

Parish councillors in nearby Addingham also do not raise a local precept. But chairman Stephen Crossley-Smith said that the parish council received income from the rent of land made over to village ownership during the local government reorganisation in the 1970s.

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