Lack of funding may delay two vital town council projects for next year
An increase in the number of households in Marlborough and/or the efficiency of Wiltshire Council in collecting council tax may have a vital impact on two projects Marlborough town council wants to launch next year.
One is the flood relief works for Kennet Place, a joint effort with the Environment Agency and Wiltshire Council, and the other the introduction of a tourist information centre following the dramatic closure by Wiltshire Council of the one based in Marlborough library.
They could add up to an extra £50,000 on the town council’s budget, the equivalent of £13 for a council Band D taxpayer, the flooding scheme possibly being paid for with a Public Loans Board low-interest rate funding since it is a project that will benefit the town for decades and could be paid for over time.
With pressure on the town council to freeze its precept, the tourism scheme may have to be delayed, although outside grants may help to pay for its initial introduction and so reduce the cost.
“The precept meeting will be in January,” finance committee chairman Councillor Andrew Ross told Marlborough News Online. “We shall try to hold off making a decision as long as possible until we get the latest information from Wiltshire as to the number of households in the town.”
“That’s because an increase in the number could automatically increase our income next year without increasing the precept. And with that distinct possibility it remains an imponderable whether these two projects can go ahead because of that.”
But it is complex situation, as town clerk Liam Costello explained.
“Last year the number of dwellings went up by 56 to 3,542,” he pointed out. “But because the number of those that claimed single person discount and the fact that Wiltshire council’s success in collecting rates was slightly reduced, the tax base went down from the equivalent of 3,285 to 3,257.
“The number of dwellings will have gone up again this year, but we do not know yet the other variable of collection success will affect the final figure of the income that will be raised.”
So the town council still has a chance to juggle with the figures for next year, one important factor being that town council spending is currently within budget, all its projects, including planned improvements to the town hall, are under control.
Councillor Ross has suggested a potential 12.5 per cent increase in the precept to cover the two projects and doesn’t contemplate any serious savings without cutting town council services.
“But members of the committee are fearful that it is an alarming figure in the light of the current economic situation and the pressure on personal budget with the cost of household utilities having risen so high,” he said.
“Basically, things are looking good at the moment. We don’t have any estimates yet for the two new projects but obviously we must make some allowance. We have just kicked up some figures in the air for the moment.
“We shall have to wait to see what comes down when we know all the facts – and make our decision then.”