Councillors have agreed to a round table on the Andover Special Expenses Levy and its future following a motion being brought.

Cllrs David Coole and Christopher Ecclestone had brought a motion to Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) which asked for the end of the levy, and an apology to the people of the town. In response, Cllr Maureen Flood, the finance portfolio holder for the council, criticised the motion’s proposals as “inappropriate”.

Following debate, Cllrs Coole and Ecclestone agreed to withdraw the motion, with all TVBC councillors invited to a round table at a future Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSCOM) meeting.

The Andover Special Expenses Levy is charged to residents of the parish of Andover to pay for parish services provided by the borough council, such as parks, cemeteries and sports grounds. It is currently set at £21.12, and will reduce to £20.12 in the next financial year.

It was introduced at a time when Andover did not have a town council, and since one was established in 2010, councillors of various political persuasions have attempted to have it ended, including threats of legal action and the formation of negotiating teams.

At a full council meeting of TVBC on February 26, Cllrs Coole and Ecclestone proposed that the council should “apologise to both past and current residents of the parish of Andover for subjecting them to double taxation since the formation of Andover Town Council in 2010.”

It said that TVBC should “ensure that from 2022/23, both the current and future residents of the parish of Andover are no longer subjected to double taxation by terminating the Andover Special Expenses Levy, by means of either transferring the special items to the borough budget or transferring them to Andover Town Council.”

Opening the debate, Cllr Coole said: “If a borough council provides the same service elsewhere in their boundary it should not be included in a levy, it should be removed or given to the parish that it is responsible for.

“We know that Romsey and Woodley cemeteries have not been included yet Andover residents pay for them. Andover’s cemeteries are not unique to Andover, but as anybody in the borough can be buried, they are clearly a borough asset.”

For instance, Charlton and Andover cemeteries, which would normally be run by the parish council and open to just parish residents, are open to be used by families across the entire borough.

Cllr Coole continued: “It is time for this to come to an end. It is unfair. The arguments put forward that the precept for Andover town boundaries are flawed”.

In response, Cllr Flood said that she believed the motion “misunderstands the meaning and implication of double taxation.”

She said: “It implies that since Andover Town Council has formed, Andover town residents have been paying twice for the same services and have been financially disadvantaged as a result. That is quite simply not the case. Indeed, it’s the same legislation cited in the motion that confirms the current situation is correct.

She continued: “I would go further to suggest that absorbing the current special expenses into the council’s budget, as suggested in the motion, would create double taxation on those residents elsewhere in the borough, who would then be subsidising those costs on top of their own parish charge. Taking the combined amount of the special expenses levy and the Andover Town Council on top means the total charge for residents of Andover is £41.22 which is 23rd out of 51 when compared with parishes borough wide.

“It would be inappropriate to move the levy charge as proposed in the motion.”

Cllr David Drew concurred, saying that “residents of Andover aren’t being asked to pay twice for the same service.”

He said: “Calling for the special expenses items to be transferred to the borough council budget or to the town council strongly suggests that neither Cllr Coole nor Ecclestone believe this either.”

Cllr Celia Dowden then suggested a presentation from officers to all members of TVBC on the levy, or a round table on it. This was supported by Cllr Zilliah Brooks, the chair of OSCOM, who said it could become part of the agenda at one of the committee’s meetings.

Cllr Ecclestone said that he thought that arguments over the levy “can be resolved by negotiation” and said that the round table was “a positive step forwards.”

He agreed to withdraw his support for the motion, with Cllr Coole also withdrawing his after being reassured it would feature on a forthcoming agenda.

As a result, while the motion fell without support, the issue will be discussed at an OSCOM meeting in the future.