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Town Council approves lower council tax rise

Created on 10/01/2019 @ 15:05
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Plans by Welshpool Town Council to hit council tax payers with a 26% increase were voted down at a full council meeting last night (Wednesday).

A budget paper presented by Town Clerk Robert Robinson suggested a £40 a year increase for Band D properties, to cover extra spending of £110,000.

But councillors voted to trim the proposed extra expenditure in half, and it will result in a Band D property paying around £176.53 to Welshpool Town Council next financial year, an increase nearer to 10% once the number crunching is complete.

With Powys County Council and Dyfed-Powys Police also expected to increase their segments of the council tax bill, Councillor Phil Pritchard said he would not support the £40 increase.

“I am becoming very nervous as a town councillor when asked to consider such a large increase,” he said. “We are doing this completely the wrong way around. We should decide on how much we can afford to ask people to pay and then work out how we achieve what we want to do.

“We have taken on over £100,000 a year expenditure of services previously carried out by Powys County Council and when the grants from Powys dry up we could have a black hole of £250,000 to fill. The time has come when we have to say we can’t keep on spending rate payer’s money in this way.”

The Mayor, Councillor Steve Kaye, said the council had prepared a sustainability plan for the future.

“We should not be trying to be a profitable business. We are a service provider.”

But Councillor Pritchard said: “We are losing money and trying to top it up by putting it on the town’s rate payers. I think it’s time to bite the bullet and take some expenditure out of next year’s budget.”

Councillor Heather Sherlock said: “We are not proposing a reasonable increase. There are lots of non-essential expenses in next year’s budget which should be taken out to keep the rate down.”

Mr Robinson said residents had completed a survey saying they would be happy to pay more to retain services in the town and Councillor Folkert Veenstra said most people in Welshpool could afford to pay the extra £40. 

“Those that can’t afford it can claim a council tax reduction and many won’t have to pay at all,” he said.

Councillor Alison Davies said there were areas that could be cut from the budget and Councillor Estelle Blievas said non-essential services should be looked at again.

Nine councillors voted to cut expenditure and approved a 13.25% increase which represented £23 for Band D properties with five councillors abstaining.

Items deferred included a replacement lorry, CCTV upgrades, play equipment replacement, a new outdoor gym and street planters. Event costs for the Transport Festival and Winter Fair will be reduced, less money put into reserves and special projects trimmed.

Town Councillors have all agreed not to claim any allowances for the second year in a row. And Councillor Pritchard said it had been the best debate in the council chamber for 20 years.

The breakdown in savings is as follows from the original proposed increase for 2019-2020 of £110,000

i)               To delay the relocation of the CCTV cameras £9,000

ii)             To delay the new playground climbing frame £14,000

iii)            To delay the outdoor gym £5,000

iv)            Reduction in Transport Festival Budget £1,000

v)             Reduction in events programme expenditure £3,500

vi)            To delay the street planting scheme £2,500

vii)          Reduce reserves allocation £10,000

viii)         Reduce overrun allowance £10,000 

Total amounts removed from budget total: £55,000

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