PLANS for a ‘complete rebrand’ of a small parish council which would see a mayor and deputy mayor appointed have been mistaken by some residents as an April Fool’s Joke.

Burlescombe Parish Council, which represents fewer than 1,000 people, had outlined plans to become a town council and appoint a mayor - before undergoing a rebrand and hiking the precept by 137 per cent.

Speaking to the Wellington Weekly, Westeligh resident Barry Jones, 75, blasted the council as “out of touch” and said he would refuse to pay any increase in council tax. He said: “It’s not going down well with residents, we were dumbfounded when we first heard about it. We don’t have a shop, we don’t have a pub, what do we need a mayor for?

“The council is not well liked, they should be trying to accommodate residents but there is no cooperation between councillors and residents.

“They are out of touch with the people. They aren’t living in the real world.”

Mr Jones said the parish playing field, which was set up by historical private fundraisers, was now under threat, and if the council hiked the precept to undergo a rebrand, he would refuse to pay it. He added: “I think I speak for the majority about what’s going on. I would refuse to pay the increase to have a mayor because we don’t need one, it’s ridiculous.”

Lewis Worrow, chairman of the council, said the proposed precept rise would exclusively go toward maintaining the playing field, which was being disposed of by Mid Devon District Council and added there would be no cost associated with the proposed rebranding.

On a Facebook group for local residents, one person remarked that when they first heard the proposals they mistook them for an April Fool’s Day joke. They said: “I honestly thought the portal was an April Fool’s Day prank as I hadn’t seen it before yesterday.

“If it wasn’t it’s the biggest joke I have heard in a while.”

These plans were blasted as a “vanity project” by another resident, who commented: “I urge the residents of the parish to put their views to the parish council on what appears to be nothing more than a selfish vanity project.”

Burlescombe Parish Council has now invited residents to participate in a public consultation over the proposed town status and over the future of the playing field.

Responding to the criticism Mr Worrow said: “The investment fund won't directly raise local council tax in itself and other fund-raising methods will be tried first. Taxes will only increase if absolutely necessary and supported by the public.

“The 2025/2026 precept is pending, with consultation starting today. The precept will then be presented on October 1, 2024. “The need to raise funding for the play park is in direct response to Mid Devon District Council terminating their lease of Westleigh Play Park and is completely separate from the discussion about alternative names and styles.”