Our town has UK’s highest council tax rate but WE have to sweep up litter and potholes leave streets looking 'war-torn' | The Sun

FED-UP locals paying the UK’s highest rate of council tax have blasted failing local services including potholed roads, litter-strewn streets and a lack of police.

Residents in West Devon pay 10.85 per cent of their median gross pay in council tax compared to just 2.16 per cent in Wandsworth, where the burden is lowest, analysis by the TaxPayers' Alliance found.

Across the region, residents have an average salary of £21,639, but the annual council tax bill on a Band D property will set you back £2,347.

In the ancient market town of Tavistock – the birthplace of Sir Francis Drake – many of the 12,500 locals don’t think they are getting value for their hard-earned money.

Duncan Bird, 48, who owns Palmers of Tavistock butchers, said: “The amount the council are charging and what they do for it is not good value in my opinion. It just goes up year on year and they seem to be doing less and less.

“You can see potholes everywhere but nothing seems to be done. I’ve had my tyre burst by driving through a pothole which is just more expense that you don’t need.


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“Waste disposal is a problem, recycling is collected every week but bins are every fortnight or three weeks, garden waste used to be free but now we have to pay on top.

The amount the council are charging and what they do for it is not good value in my opinion. It just goes up year on year and they seem to be doing less and less.

“This has all had a knock-on effect, the streets are less clean and there are less people in the meadows and doing the grounds work. There are fewer workers but you’re paying more.

“The town is beautiful but people don’t see it in its full potential and it’s not in all its glory, things are slacking which has a detrimental effect.

“I pay £237 per month but when we moved in 20 years ago it was £52, in 20 years it has gone up an awful lot but we haven’t got anything extra.

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“If it was up to me I’d get rid of the penpushers, I’ve always said if it’s not their money they don’t look after it like it’s their own.”

'Struggling families'

The pretty town of Tavistock is best known as the home of explorer Sir Francis Drake, who was born in a farmhouse around 1540.

Residents take great pride in its role as the 'eastern gateway'to Devon's only UNESCO World Heritage Site, which protects the localmining landscape.

However, earlier this year, Tavistock town councillor James Ellis dramatically compared some of the town’s roads to war-torn Kosovo and said potholes were one of the subjects he was frequently asked about by residents.

Margaret Grylls, 76, who has lived in Tavistock for 50 years said: “We don’t get good value for council tax, we have massive potholes all around the town.

“The town centre is kept lovely but all the streets going out of town are not cleaned at all, the hedgerows are all overgrown and we certainly could do with a boost in the town.

“There is lots of litter around, we are fortunate to have a group of volunteers who do a free litter pick once a month. We could do with a lot more work around the town, we don’t see a road sweeper from one end of the year to the other on our street.

“The town is dying, we have lost our banks. A lot of the main shops have closed, we have nowhere to get clothes for young children. We really need to give the whole town a boost.

“They use the excuse that there’s cars parked there but even when the cars aren’t parked they don’t do it so to me it’s just pointless.

“The town is dying, we have lost our banks. A lot of the main shops have closed, we have nowhere to get clothes for young children. We really need to give the whole town a boost. 

“We are on pensions so it’s hard for us, my daughter and partner both work and they are struggling. 

“Families are struggling to make ends meet. You don’t have any money for luxuries.”

Retired engineer and artist Tony Whetton, 75, from Yelverton, Devon, said: “I really don’t know why it should be higher here than anywhere else in the country, that’s a bit of a mystery to me.

“I appreciate times are difficult and councils’ resources are stretched in all directions but I think there are some things they could do better.

“I don’t think the police are as respected as they used to be by any means.

“The condition of the roads could be well improved, I’ve had some very unpleasant journeys.

“If you look here people don’t have the disposable income that they did five years ago, we are not selling very much even though our pictures are reasonably priced.

"People are going to spend their money on other things like paying their mortgage.”

But not everyone felt let down, with fruit and veg seller Luke Vincent, 19, saying he was impressed with services locally.

He added: “From what I can see it’s a really nice clean area."

'Bearing the brunt'

The high council tax burden has sparked calls to freeze rates in the hopes of giving people some “breathing space”.

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers are struggling with the unsustainable burden of council tax.

“But far from falling on those with the broadest shoulders, it appears that the most hard-pressed households are bearing the brunt of rising rates.”

West Devon Borough Council’s Deputy Leader, Cllr Mark Renders, said: “It is really important to remember that we don’t keep all of the Council Tax collected for ourselves.

"As a borough council, we charge £254 per year for our annual services, which as a rural and sparsely populated council, is good value for money.

“The largest part of the Council Tax bill, £1,634 goes to Devon County Council to deliver their services, which include highways covering roads and potholes, children’s services and adult social care.

“As a small rural council, it costs us more than an urban council to deliver our core services to everyone across the Borough, especially for recycling and waste services which cover a large area including Dartmoor.

"This is something which we have been lobbying central government about.

“The council annually saves £2.2million per year by sharing its staff with South Hams District Council and the costs of staff is shared between each council.

"We know that some salaries are lower in West Devon, as well as in other rural areas nationally, especially for the farming community, and that is why we have been working extremely hard to help our residents throughout the cost of living crisis.

"We will continue to do what we can to support our residents as we approach the autumn months ahead.”

A Devon County Council spokesperson said: “Road maintenance is a national issue. The backlog of carriageway repairs in England and Wales has reached £14.02 billion, which is further compounded by high inflation, a cold winter and a particularly wet July.  

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“These national challenges have a particularly profound impact in Devon given that the county has the largest road network in the country. Over half are unclassified rural roads and have evolved over time rather than designed and constructed.    

“Despite these pressures, the Highways and Traffic Management Service has continued to focus on reviewing and improving current working practices to increase efficiency and reduce disruption.”

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