HEDON Town Council has agreed a rise of 5% in the precept (component part of council tax spent on very local services). The amount to be raised this year is £131,963, a levy of £62 on every household in the town.
In reality this constitutes a standstill budget for the council, the reason for the rise is blamed by the council on the loss of *compensatory funding from the Government (via the East Riding of Yorkshire Council) which over the last two years has helped to freeze precept levels. The 5% rise will just fill the gap left by the withdrawal of some of that compensation.
At its special budget meeting last night, Hedon councillors re-visited the list of items of expenditure they would like to commit to, and studied where savings could be made.
One of the biggest casualties in this process was a proposal for the council to contribute towards a scheme to expand and improve the car park at the old railway station on Souttergate. The town council has regularly discussed the parking issue throughout the year and suggested a number of schemes to the East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC). The county council has costed a scheme to upgrade the station car park at a cost of £57,000 which would create additional parking spaces.
“This would help alleviate parking problems in the town,” urged Councillor Di Storr “and rather than ‘tinkering around the edges’ of this issue, it is one of the kind of radical solutions we need to be looking at.” She referred to a recent survey conducted that had revealed the pressure on town centre parking spaces; at least 320 traders in Hedon travel into the town centre in a vehicle and take up a parking space all day. The new parking spaces, Cllr. Storr argued, would ease that pressure and be the prompt to then start looking at resident parking and other schemes. She had suggested that the council might contribute up to £30,000 towards the upgrade.
Councillor David Thompson said that the full details of the ERYC scheme were not available at this time, including how many new parking spaces would actually be created. “It’s a scheme we need to investigate over the year and come back to at the budget meeting next year to discuss a fully-costed and detailed proposal” he argued and formally proposed. Cllr. Terry West counter-proposed that the council should show a commitment to the scheme with a contribution of up to £10,000.
The ten councillors present voted on the first proposal from Cllr. Thompson and the vote was split 5 votes each. With an additional casting vote, town council chairman Cllr. John Dennis voted in favour – result; the scheme would be looked at next year. Cllr. Storr wanted it noted that she was very disgruntled at the decision taken and felt it important that residents ought to know very clearly what they were getting for the precept they paid and, she said, an opportunity had been lost.
Another proposal suffering because of the lack of clarity in the detail, was a plan to install a stairlift in the Town Hall to allow greater access for disabled people to take part in events in the building. Cllr. Sarah Rommell had championed this project and had received several estimates from suppliers, but the fine detail on the one recommended by the ERYC Conservation Officer was unavailable (the Town Hall is an ancient listed building and any scheme has to be developed sensitively to preserve the character and fabric of the building). The scheme was not totally abandoned with £7,000 allocated in the budget towards disabled access.
Other budget points of interest:
- £1,000 to provide litter bins and similar
- £1,000 towards Horsewell Pond restoration
- £3,000 towards a major Hedon community event
- A new tractor is needed by the council, while deemed unaffordable this year will be a major budget item next year.
*Note on compensation funding: This funding helped to keep precepts static when the tax base changed in April 2013 (note: the tax base is used in calculating the council tax set each year, it is the total number of properties in an area converted to “Band D equivalents” using ratios defined by law).
The compensation funding awarded to Hedon this year (2015-16) is £8,755. Next year it will be half that amount and will be abolished the year after.