THE PRECEPT to pay for the Hedon component of council tax bills will remain the same as last year for the new financial year (April 2014 – March 2015). This was resolved at a marathon 2 hour 45 minute budget-setting meeting of Hedon Town Council last night.
The precept set last year of around £140,000 was offset by grant support from government funding of around £13,000 (via the East Riding Council) giving a town precept of £124,954 with a household charge to Hedon council tax payers of £59.37. The balanced figures for this year are expected to be very similar when published.
Hedon Town Council is one of only 17 town and parish councils to continue to receive compensatory grant support from government funding. East Riding Council has opted to support only those councils which last year sought to freeze or lower their precept. Some town councillors expressed a fear that any compensation funding next year might only be available on the same criteria. In a resolution passed at the end of the meeting last night, the council welcomed the continuing support available from the compensatory funding, but expressed disquiet at the ongoing reliance on such external and uncertain financial sources in order to balance a budget.
In making their decisions last night councillors went through each budget heading twice and on each pass sought to reduce expenditure. Several budget items were earmarked for further discussion on the first pass and were debated at great length before final decisions were made.
Out went plans to spend additional amounts on resolving Hedon’s vehicle and car parking problems this year: Plans for a local transport service around the town could not expected to be realised in the new financial year and so further research into that proposal will take place this year with a view to budgeting for 2015/16. Out, also, went a budget earmarked for a new car park in the town.
Disabled Access: A new project to make Hedon Town Hall more disabled-friendly and improving access to disabled people for functions and meetings taking place in the ancient building did get supported. However, only £4,000 was earmarked towards the £17,000 to £20,000 estimated costs. The council will determine how to make the project happen at a future Finance & General Purposes meeting, but one of the options to be discussed at that meeting is taking out a loan. Whilst paying for work via loans is nothing new for local authorities, this would be a step-change in how the Hedon Council does business.
Other issues from the budget meeting:
- Spending on a tree planting and replacement scheme was reduced by half.
- Plans to purchase a new mechanical grit/salt spreader for tackling winter snow and ice was dropped in favour of an additional, cheaper hand-pushed manual spreader.
- Spending on the Hedon Town Council newsletter was cut resulting in only two editions being published instead of four.
- The budget to complete the restoration of Horsewell Pond was cut.
- A budget item aimed at making some Town Council meetings watchable online was dropped.
This article only gives a glimpse of the very difficult decisions made by councillors at last night’s meeting. During the process of the long meeting, plans and budgets which would have led to a 250% rise in the local precept, were streamlined to achieve a 0% rise for local residents.
The decision to maintain a freeze on the level of precept has not been a painless one. But, we ask, would local residents accept a rise in their council tax bills to pay for additional local services?