“We are in uncharted waters” states Cllr Andy Ross as Wiltshire Council cuts force a significant rise in Town Council precept

Written by Neil Goodwin on .

Councillor Andy Ross, chair of the Finance and Policy CommitteeCouncillor Andy Ross, chair of the Finance and Policy CommitteeMarlborough Town Council last night (16 January) voted to set a precept of £182.67 (Band D equivalent), an increase of 16.55% over the current year’s level.  This equates to an increase of 50p per week for those residents on Band D.

A significant increase, but Councillors expressed their frustration and sense of powerlessness in the face of ‘service divestments’ by Wiltshire Council, where areas of responsibility that were previously managed by the County Council had been transferred to the Town Council’s management with no consideration for cost.  Examples appear to be road and pavement cleaning, and grass cutting on verges.

Also certain premises are likely to be handed to Marlborough by Wiltshire Council by ‘Asset Transfer’, such as the Youth Centre at St Margaret’s Mead and the Corner House (former Children’s Centre in the George Lane Car Park), with no accompanying financial support.  So suddenly the Town will have to manage and maintain these properties, all of which will be at a cost to the residents of the Town and starting during the next financial year.

Ultimately the increase in precept that the Town Council set last night could be viewed as a ‘sleight of hand’ on behalf of the Government (who are cutting support and funding to Local Authorities).  And then by Wiltshire, who are desperately attempting to cut costs whilst maintaining an overall level of service without having to effect a large increase in Council Tax by the transferring of these ‘responsibilities’ with their associated costs down to the next level, i.e. the Town Council, who then have to pass costs on to their residents.  Yes, ‘Austerity’ in action.

“We are in uncharted waters” stated Finance and Policy Committee chair, Cllr Andy Ross, who was responsible for drawing up the Council’s annual budget.  “Sometimes it’s a very straightforward process, but this year there are so many complex underlying issues that we can’t quantify, coming to a firm conclusion on this has been very difficult” he added.

“We have come to a conclusion but there are many underlying features that we can’t predict at this stage” he continued,  “and the background of Wiltshire Council transferring services to us, and transferring assets with no funding.  It is the slow attrition of reduction in services, which is slowly having an ever-increasing impact on our staff and what we are doing.  This is very hard to quantify.” he added.

To explain the increase in precept and to answer questions from Council Tax payers next Monday’s (23 Jan) full meeting of the Town Council will start at 6:30 pm half an hour earlier than the normal 7pm, to allow an extended public question time for residents to attend and ask any questions particularly about the increase in precept and the effect of ‘service divestments’ by Wiltshire Council.