Welshpool Town Council came perilously close to being unable to pay its bills last week and needed an emergency payment from Powys County Council to stay afloat.
The shocking revelation came at last Thursday night’s full council meeting when Cllr Phil Pritchard asked for a second week in a row: “Have we got enough money to pay our bills?”
The previous week he was told by Finance Officer Vanessa Voysey that the council did not, but a week on she reported that a successful request had been made to Powys County Council for a three-week advance on the precept from Welshpool tax payers.
“What on earth has been going on?” said an animated Cllr Pritchard, during a discussion about grant applications that led to the question on paying bills.
But Ms Voysey, who is also the temp Proper Officer following last week’s retirement of Town Clerk, Anne Wilson, responded: “My professional view is that there needs to be a lot more transparency and I think you all need to be more involved in things.”
To which Cllr Pritchard responded: “Last week I asked one question: Have we got enough money to pay our bills? And the answer was ‘no’. We are the people that are stopped on the street with people asking what is going on?”
Town Mayor, Cllr Nick Howells, intervened to ask councillors to draw a line in the sand as “we are trying to improve things”.
Ms Voysey then explained: “The answer last week was no, but the answer this week is yes. I called up the treasury at Powys (County Council) who paid the precept three weeks early without any additional costs to ensure we have got enough cash flow to pay our bills. They were very helpful and they did it within a few hours. The financial situation has been resolved.”
Cllr Pritchard said that they were grateful for Powys County Council’s intervention but insisted “this shouldn’t be happening and it’s no good us just covering it up and pushing it under the carpet again and we don’t know a damn thing about what’s going on”.
Cllr Chris Davies added: “This (council payment) got us out of a hole, but it is a hole that we should never have been in. This council has never been in debt this far and it is because of a lack of clarity between councillors.”
Cllr Howells again urged councillors to focus on the future and move forward “as one council, hopefully all of us”, and he added: “I can only apologise for this past mess, although I can’t take responsibility for it.”
Householders in Welshpool pay the second highest council tax in Powys, behind Machynlleth, and the Town Council number crunchers are now in the process of fixing its 2024/25 budget, which will undoubtedly include another rise in the amount they pay.
MyWelshpool has contacted Powys County Council to seek more clarification on the issue