Charging policy

Charging principles

Charges should be made for services whenever we have a power or duty to do so.

There will be a presumption that charges to be made for the provision of a service will be set at a level intended to recover the cost of providing the service.

However, this presumption may be modified by the application of the charging principles set out below, which may result in no charge being made or a lesser charge being made or in some cases a charge being made which is greater than that required for cost recovery.

No charge will be made in cases where the we are not permitted to charge by law. Where charges are set by external bodies, those charges will be applied. Where maximum or minimum charges are specified externally, charges will be set in compliance with those requirements.

The following matters will be considered when deciding whether to set a charge, which is not to be based on cost recovery. The headings in bold indicate general areas for consideration and the bullet points below them are particular factors which should be taken into account where relevant.

The cost of providing the service

All direct costs are to be included.

All overheads related to the provision of the service, which may be attributed to the cost of the service, are to be included.

Best estimates may be made of costs where it is not practical to obtain precise data or identify precisely those overheads attributable to the service.

Unit costs are to be calculated by reference to realistic user numbers based on actual experience, either in relation to this council or, if appropriate, comparable services elsewhere.

How much income is it desired to generate and why?

Is the service required to make a surplus or break-even?

Does income from the service make a significant contribution to reducing the net amount of our revenue budget?

Have any targets been set for the income or class of income of which it is a component?

Is income needed to fund future investment?

Comparison of charges made by neighbouring or similar councils or other providers of similar services

In making this comparison it will be necessary to establish whether the services being provided by these other bodies are comparable to those provided by us and to make adjustments where this is not so.

Is there a logical reason for significant differences between this council's charges and those of others?

Will customers be lost to other service providers if charges are set too high?

Whose use of services is it desired to subsidise and by how much?

Can all potential users afford to pay the full cost of the service or the same charges as other users?

Is it desirable to subsidise all users of the service, for example because there is likely to be a desirable outcome for the community as a result?

Are there particular classes of users that should be subsidised, such as the unemployed, benefits recipients, the elderly, disabled persons or children?

Should subsidies be given by reducing the charges payable or by offering concessions to offset the charge?

Whose behaviour is it desired to influence and in what ways?

Is it desirable to influence users to use particular facilities, for example where they are under-used, by charging less for their use than for other similar ones?

Is it desirable to persuade users to behave in a way which is more acceptable to the community in preference to any other or others less acceptable and can this be promoted by setting charges at a level which might achieve this?

Is it desired to promote a particular pattern of use, for example short stay parking as opposed to another, such as long stay parking or to discourage peak time use of facilities?

Should some behaviour or activities be discouraged by setting high charges or penalties?

Can anti-social behaviour be reduced by charging for services which discourage people from behaving irresponsibly at a level which they will find attractive, for example charges for the collection of bulky waste to discourage fly-tipping?

Are there desirable outcomes which we wish to see realised, in line with our corporate objectives, which could be assisted through the charging regime, for example maintaining the economic vitality of the town centres through the provision of reasonably priced facilities such as car parking?

How will charges help to improve value for money, equity and access to services?

What are users' perceptions with regard to what constitutes a fair and reasonable charge?

Are there any issues relating to social inclusion or equalities? Will the cost (including staff time) of collecting the income due outweigh the amount of income likely to be collected?

Will the cost (including staff time) of collecting the income due outweigh the amount of income likely to be collected?

Is it worth making a charge?

Should a charge be made anyway as a matter of principle?

Any other relevant factors

It will be a matter for us to determine what the charge will be, based on its consideration of the above factors.

Where, without prior agreement by us, individuals or organisations engage in activities that result in a cost to us, we will seek to recover this cost, wherever possible.

Consideration may be given to offering a discount or other reduction, in appropriate cases, where it is felt that this may improve take up of the service or to encourage prompt payment, following onsultation with the Executive Director (Resources and Support Services) who must approve all such initiatives.

Penalties, in the form of fines, may also be imposed in order to deter inappropriate or antisocial behaviour, for example littering. The amount of the fine will be set at a level designed to deter such behaviour.

Activities carried out by us will be continually reviewed in order to identify any new areas where it would be appropriate to make a charge to persons or organisations benefiting (actually or potentially) from those activities. The level of the charge will be determined in accordance with these charging principles.