Category Archives: Budget

Wisbech Town Council Budget 2018/19

Wisbech Town Council Budget 2018/19

At its meeting on 22 January 2018 Wisbech Town Council set its budget and associated parish precept for 2018/19.

In setting its budget, the council considered very carefully the cost of continuing to run its existing services, facilities and activities, as well as enhancing those and operating, delivering and managing additional ones.

Not surprisingly, the council will be increasing its estimated gross expenditure from 363,840.00 in the current financial year (2017/18) to £450,150.00 in 2018/19.

A consequence of increasing expenditure is a need to increase the parish precept. The parish precept is a form of taxation which a Town or Parish Council is able to levy upon each household in the Town or Parish area – and is collected by the District Council as part of the overall Council tax bill – to be able to a local council to fund the difference between its annual income and expenditure.

The level of Parish Precept in Wisbech for the current financial year is £265,374.00; this equates to a sum of £43.16 for the year for each Band D (for Council Tax) equivalent property. The figure for such a household in the financial year 2018/19, to cover a precept of £364,237.00, will increase to £57.87; this means an increase in cost for the year of £14.71 (or 34.0%) to the 2017/18 figure.

The additional cost to the occupiers of a Band D equivalent property (of which there are 6,294 in Wisbech) will be around £1.20 per month. More than half of the 8,156 properties in Wisbech are in Council Tax band A; those households will face an increase of approximately 80 pence per month.

It is worth noting that, according to research undertaken by the Department for Communities and Local Government, the national average Parish Precept set by a local council in 2017/18 is £61.03. In Wisbech it is £43.16 currently and will rise to £57.87. It is likely that the UK figure will rise to around £63.00.

So despite the misinformation spread by some, Wisbech is actually considerably lower than the average for the country and, I think, offers good value for money.  People can see what the Council does and hear what it would like to do, and I think people broadly understand that these things cannot be done without the necessary funds.

Councillor Miss Samantha Hoy, Leader of Wisbech Town Council, says “Given Wisbech Town Council’s increasing role in the delivery and enhancement of services – such as the operation, restoration and management of Wisbech Castle, enhancement of the Market Place, taking on an area of public car parking to the rear of the Queen Mary Centre, enhancements to public toilets etc – generates a need for additional money. The council also needs to collect additional revenue to compensate for the reduction (of around £12,000 in 2018/19) in the level of Council Tax Support Grant that it will receive from Fenland District Council and to replenish the Elections reserve, which has been depleted because of the number of unanticipated by-elections over the last 18 months or so.

Although the percentage increase in the precept may look high, the actual financial amount is not – what else is a household in Wisbech able to purchase for around £1.00 a month?

Over the last few years Wisbech Town Council has set very low levels of parish precept and there becomes a time at which such a situation can no longer be sustained; in fact, until the financial year 2016/17 Wisbech Town Council had not increased its parish precept since the financial year 2012/13; for the financial year 2015/16, the level of Precept was actually reduced by 1.2%.

Notice that regular critics weren’t cheering when the Council froze or cut the Council Tax over those years.    In the same way they they would have been quick to damn the Town Council if it had let the Castle go into private ownership.  Some folks want to find fault whatever happens, but the Councillors of WTC seek to do the best for the people of Wisbech at the most reasonable rates they can.

Wisbech Town Council, as the local authority which is closest to the people of Wisbech – and the money collected through the precept can only be spent for the benefit of people in Wisbech (not the case with the District Council, the County Council, the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Fire Authority) – has ambitions to make Wisbech a better place for people to live, work and visit; this cannot be done without investment of time and money at the appropriate levels.

When a rise goes to another authority – one of the huge ones – it can get lost in the levels of bureaucracy.  Not so Wisbech Town Council, where every penny can be tracked and every expenditure seen and often enjoyed by the people who live here.

Wisbech Town Council is hopeful that the people of the town will understand the council’s rationale in increasing the level of parish precept for Wisbech for 2018/19 and not be critical of action which is being taken to drive improvements through investment in services and facilities”.

In the coming months and years you will see the physical changes this £1.00 a month can bring when in the hands of a small but dedicated Council.  You will see the Castle remain in public use, the Market Place improved, toilets improved, and the wonderful town festivals grow bigger and better.  Watch this space.

Budget Musing

Budget Musing

I think yesterday’s budget has reset the clear dividing lines between Labour and the Conservatives. Everywhere I’ve been today people are talking about it – people who I wouldn’t normally expect to care one way or the other about political parties and what they say.

Labour have their own lines to run which seem to be built around renewed “class warfare.” They don’t have any sort of economic plan beyond Price Controls and other failed 1970’s economic madness and they don’t know how to respond to the good news and good economic figures which keep on coming in week after week. All they can do is invent scary buzz phrases and hope that playing on people’s cynicism will help them.

For me I think Labour have finally come “out of the closet” and shown the key different between the left-wingers and those of us on the right. They always think they know better than the people.

This is why they refuse to give the people a referendum on EU membership. Because they think they know better.

This is why their spokespeople are saying: “You can’t trust people to manage their own money.” Because they think they know better.

This is why they are so scared of schools run by anybody other than grey suits in dim council buildings. This is why they are terrified of the localisation of the NHS, because they hate the idea that local Doctors just might know more about their patients than some bigwig, one hundred miles away, in an area office.

Both locally and nationally there is one word which the Left-Wingers live by.  Control.  It works for a while, when people are worried or nervous – but eventually people fight back.  Because they don’t want to be controlled.

Budget Front Pages

Budget Front Pages

You can tell a lot about a budget from the way different newspapers handle it the next day.  A disastrous budget will have even the papers whose ethos matches that of the party publishing it turning on them, while the “opposition papers” cackle with glee and stick the boot in.  A good budget has lots of cheery front pages from supportive publications while the opposition papers mutter or go quiet.

Daily_Express_20_3_2014 Daily_Mail_20_3_2014 Daily_Mirror_20_3_2014 Daily_Star_20_3_2014 I_Newspaper_20_3_2014 The_Daily_Telegraph_20_3_2014 The_Guardian_20_3_2014 The_Independent_20_3_2014 The_Sun_20_3_2014 The_Times_20_3_2014

Setting A Town Council Budget

Setting A Town Council Budget

It’s quite unusual for a reader to specifically request a post – but I am really keen to encourage such interest and so I’ve decided to get right on and do what I was asked to do by Fenman x 2 on the comments of my previous blog entry.   The question was “What is actually involved in setting a council budget?”

First of all, the process will be different in each council and it’s a very different affair between what goes on at the very local Town level and what goes on at somewhere like District or County Council.  The process for those large councils, particularly County where huge multi-million and even billion-pound budgets are involved includes huge public consultations, multiple rounds of discussion at Officer and Councillor level, committee input in various stages, draft budgets, opposition budgets and so on.

The Town Council is a much smaller affair and consequently is handled at a much simpler level.  What usually happens at Wisbech Town Council is that the budget is put together by the Resources Committee first of all.  The Resources committee is made up of the Chairmen of all the other committees, the Leader of the Town Council, the Chairman of The Town Council (who is also the Mayor) and the Deputy Mayor.   That budget then comes before Full Council (all the councillors) and is ratified (or not) by the Full Council.  Both the Resources Committee and the Full Council meetings are Public Meetings.

But I don’t think that really answers the question that Fenman posed, which is what is actually involved?  I don’t think Fenman was asking for a list of the official process, but more of what actually goes on.  Well, we did it slightly differently this year, inviting all councillors to an informal meeting to discuss the budget prior to the official process.  This meant that councillors who didn’t sit on the Resources Committee got to  suggest ideas, raise things their constituents have told them or suggested to them, challenge things etc. – in advance of the budget official process.  It’s a shame none of the opposition showed up, because it was a very open and frank meeting in which some good discussion was had.  It was a real chance to bring up issues that would give a clear steer to the Resources Committee going forwards and nothing was “off the menu,” you could suggest or challenge anything you thought needed it.

So what did we do?  Well, essentially we went over every single line of the budget.  We looked at everything the council spends money on, and every penny that it gets in.  This is all taxpayer’s money and so it’s vital that the proper gravity and consideration is given to every pound that is spent.  You have to look at every item of expenditure and ask several questions of it.

  • Is it necessary to spend it at all?
  • Is it Moral to spend taxpayer’s money in this way?
  • If it isn’t absolutely necessary, then is the money being spent in a way that is beneficial to the Town that justifies the expenditure?
  • Would taxpayers and townsfolk broadly support the expenditure?
  • Is it being spent in the best way?
  • Might there be an alternative that would result in a better outcome for the Town?
  • Are there any consequences to the Town Council spending this money that would be detrimental to the Town?
  • Is there a way to get better value; better price, better service, better outcomes?
  • Will the overall budget place too heavy a burden on taxpayers?
  • Is the budget strategic – in that it is considering future changes to the town within its plans?
  • Are there any new competing demands on Council funds that must be considered?

How these questions are posed and how important that are does vary with the political ideology of a councillor.  Some people think these things “don’t matter” or “shouldn’t matter” at Town Council level, but in my view this is blinkered and unrealistic.  Politics doesn’t cease to exist simply because the amounts of money are a little smaller and while you might think that Town Councillors will all agree what is good for the town I can assure you this is definitely not the case.  Yes, we (hopefully) all want the best for the town – but we disagree vigorously on the way to achieve that.  Even within our own parties.

Of course the big challenge is always that people demand the Town Council do more and more, but want it done for less and less.  This is true of every council and a problem faced by every political party.  Each councillor comes in with their own ideas, priorities and preferences, and each councillor represents their own section of the electorate as best they can.  This makes for some interesting discussion in regards to budgets, even those with limited responsibilities like the Town Council.

For myself – I always have been a Low Tax Conservative.  So I am always arguing for lower tax.   I don’t always win the argument, and I try to be gracious when I lose because there really are important things that need doing.  But I try my best to be the “How about we try to do a little less?” side of the argument where possible.  However, I don’t try and close down all non-essential spend.  I personally think that things like the various festivals we have in Wisbech are quite important to the community and I also think that in recent years we’ve proved we can do them rather well.  Since we’re beginning to get a good reputation for well-run, enjoyable events I support those who feel this is something we should be proud of and build upon.

There are other things we have taken over which have run pretty well since we did.  The Town Market.  The Toilets in the Park.  There are other areas where people would like us to do a little more.  You have things like the Xmas lights, which some people feel are not “grand” enough.  But do we really want to spend tens of thousands of pounds on something we use once a year, rather then invest in something that will benefit the town all year around?  It’s not an easy answer and different people take different positions, but you will hear the public cry foul on both sides of that decision and others.

I sometimes hear some of the handful of local noisy cynics criticising the Town Council for one thing or another.  What is almost always true of these folk is that they haven’t been to a Town Council meeting, don’t know what the Town Council’s responsibilities are, or have some other pertinent facts completely wrong.  Town Councillors, unlike their District and County colleagues, do not get paid a penny.  They are volunteers, putting in their time, effort and expertise simply for the good of the town.  I sat with a large group of them for four hours on Saturday just doing the initial work on the budget which still has all the official hoops to go through.

I won’t claim that everything we do is right or that every penny spent works out precisely as we’d hoped – but anybody who thinks that a mountain of hard work and genuine care hasn’t gone into setting the budget frankly doesn’t have a clue what they are talking about.  By the end of this process, most councillors will know the budget intimately and will have questioned, challenged and considered every line of it.  Well, the councillors who bother to attend the meetings anyway…

You Choose To Help The Council Set Its Budget

You Choose To Help The Council Set Its Budget

Residents are being reminded that they are being put in the budget setting driving seat by Cambridgeshire County Council.

‘You Choose’ is a county-wide survey, launched from September 5, that is asking residents to put themselves in the seat of councillors in making decisions where to invest and save money. Residents have until October 17 to visit the County Council website and complete the survey.

A series of roadshows are also being held next week for people to have their say.

Saturday 6 Oct 10am – 1pm Huntingdon Huntingdon Library
Monday 8 Oct 10am – 1pm Wisbech Wisbech Library
Monday 8 Oct 2:30pm – 5pm Cambourne Cambourne Library, Sackville House
Wednesday 10 Oct 10am – 4pm Cambridge Cambridge Central Library
Thursday 11 Oct 10am – 1pm Ely Ely Library
Thursday 11 Oct 2pm – 4pm Linton Linton Children’s Centre
Thursday 11 Oct 2pm – 5pm Ramsey Ramsey Library
Friday 12 Oct 10am – 1pm St Neots St Neots Library
Friday 12 Oct 2pm – 5pm Bar Hill Bar Hill Library

Cambridgeshire County Council has to make £37 million in savings next year against a backdrop of having saved £40 million last year and a further £42 million this current financial year. These savings have to be made while supporting and investing in services such as adult social care, protecting children, boosting the economy and looking after roads and transport.

The website www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/budgetconsultation and face to face surveys allow residents to show the County Council what decisions they would make regarding Council Tax levels and individual service levels and budgets.

It has been designed to be easy to use so that people can see what effects their decisions have.

People are able to leave their own ideas and at special roadshows talk to councillors and officers about the budget and the priorities they want the Council to concentrate on.

People are also able have their say by logging onto the special user friendly survey in libraries too. The survey is also being carried out with face to face with some residents.

If people are unable to complete the web survey, comments about the Council’s priorities or ideas for delivering services better or more efficiently can be sent to Budget Consultation, RES1201 Shire Hall, Castle Hill, Cambridge CB3 0AP.

Cambridgeshire County Councillor Mac McGuire, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Community Engagement said: “Councils across the land have some hard decisions to make and we want Cambridgeshire residents to have a big say in ours. The County Council services are very wide-ranging and touch everyone’s lives. From looking after young people and adults during vulnerable periods in their lives to maintaining the County’s roads and recycling rubbish.

“The County Council has worked hard to be efficient and we saved £40 million last year while still investing in things residents and businesses say matter like superfast broadband, a new station for Cambridge and improving education and skills in Fenland.

“But Cambridgeshire is not immune from national budget problems or increasing demands for services. The County Council must find around £37 million in savings in the next financial year. You Choose is an easy to use survey which will put residents right at the heart of making those decisions and we can use this to help shape our budget and priorities for the future.”

You Choose How To Spend County Council Budget

You Choose How To Spend County Council Budget

This press release from County Council today.  These sort of tools can sometimes be an exercise in: “Terrify people into accepting high spending” with a few toggles that produce dramatic results and no ability to really amend the finer details.  I’m proud to say that this one isn’t one of those.  It’s a useful experiment which lets you get down to some fairly fine nitty-gritty.  If you want even more control then I’m afraid you’ll have to apply for a job at the council – or stand for election as a councillor! <ahem>

Residents are being put in the budget setting driving seat by Cambridgeshire County Council.

‘You Choose’ is a county-wide survey, launched today, September 5, that will ask residents to put themselves in the seat of councillors in making decisions where to invest and save money.

Cambridgeshire County Council has to make £37 million in savings next year against a backdrop of having saved £40 million last year and a further £42 million this current financial year. These savings have to be made while supporting and investing in services such as adult social care, protecting children, boosting the economy and looking after roads and transport.

The website http://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/budgetconsultation and face to face surveys will allow residents to show the County Council what decisions they would make regarding Council Tax levels and individual service levels and budgets.

It has been designed to be easy to use so that people can see what effects their decisions have.

People will also be able to leave their own ideas and at special roadshows talk to councillors and officers about the budget and the priorities they want the Council to concentrate on.

People will also be able have their say by logging onto the special user friendly survey in libraries too. The survey is also being carried out with face to face with some residents.

If people are unable to complete the web survey, comments about the Council’s priorities or ideas for delivering services better or more efficiently can be sent to Budget Consultation, RES1201 Shire Hall, Castle Hill, Cambridge CB3 0AP.

Cambridgeshire County Councillor Mac McGuire, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Community Engagement said: “Councils across the land have some hard decisions to make and we want Cambridgeshire residents to have a big say in ours. The County Council services are very wide-ranging and touch everyone’s lives. From looking after young people and adults during vulnerable periods in their lives to maintaining the County’s roads and recycling rubbish.

“The County Council has worked hard to be efficient and we saved £40 million last year while still investing in things residents and businesses say matter like superfast broadband, a new station for Cambridge and improving education and skills in Fenland.

“But Cambridgeshire is not immune from national budget problems or increasing demands for services. The County Council must find around £37 million in savings in the next financial year. You Choose is an easy to use survey which will put residents right at the heart of making those decisions and we can use this to help shape our budget and priorities for the future.”

The consultation is due to finish on October 17.

Budget 2012

Budget 2012

These are some of the main things George Osborne did, and my brief personal opinion on them.

Simplification Of Small Business Accounting
Excellent.

Green Tax Review
Good.  I’d have preferred they scrap the lot, and the Climate Change Act while they were at it, but maybe this is the first step down that road.

“Funding” Boost For Mid-Cap Firms
Not Good.  The government has no business acting as a supplier of credit to business.  Even going via hedge-fund people the “safety” of the government skews the natural risk element of lending.  And you can bet your bottom dollar that it will lead to accusations  of money mismanagement, corruption and cronyism.

Perpetual Bonds
No, no, no, no, no.

New Tax On Gaming Machines
It’s another easy target, isn’t it?  After alcohol and tobacco, gambling is a popular demon to exorcise.  Still, it’s hard to feel sorry for them.  They rake in immense amounts of cash from gullible people who think they can come out on top.  But then again, those people choose to take part of their own free will.  So, surely, it’s really up to them how they spend their money.  And is pushing pound coins into a slot to watch whirling flashing lights really any worse than paying pounds to watch the latest reality TV show on satellite TV?

“Granny” Tax
This was a silly thing to do.  I’m sure he will U-Turn on it in due course.  Older people have paid tax all their lives, there’s nothing wrong with giving them a tax break to help as they accumulate the years.  And since the horrible Quantitative Easing has already gobbled up their savings like the Very Hungry Caterpillar it seems a bit mean to me, even though I accept it will not hit the poorer pensioners.

Tax Free Personal Allowance Rises To £9205.00 in 2013
All tax cuts are good.  The less money the government takes, the more power individuals have to make their own choices.

Personal Tax Statement
BRILLIANT.  Taxpayers will receive a statement of where their tax was spent and how, from 2014.

Corporation Tax Cut
All tax cuts are good.  But this is particularly good, as the chancellor has indicated it will go further and lower over the coming years, putting us (eventually) at a very competitive level indeed.  Obviously, being the tax-cutting-warrior ™ I am, I’d have preferred it all now.  But the government is dealing with reality and not wish lists I suppose.  (Though I still would have done it all now!)  The Lefties will bleat about how its not a tax cut for the poor.  But that’s because they forget what money is, and what it does.  You can’t love jobs, but hate the creators of jobs.  Entice firms to move here, open here, start here, grow here – and things will begin to turn around quickly.

Higher Bank Levy
I get bored with the constant “easy target” attacks on bankers.  But, to be honest, since I never wanted them bailed out in the first place I wont be losing any sleep over it.  If they didn’t want to become Scapegoat Number One then they probably shouldn’t have come to the government with their begging bowls.  It was, and remains, a perverse betrayal of free markets.

Fuel Duty
This should have been cut, dramatically, in my view.  But there you go, that was never going to happen.

Child Benefit Being Withdrawn From Higher Rate Taxpayers
The chancellor should have stuck with his original plan.  Some Conservative MPs thought that taking the money from families on £40K was somehow an “attack” on the family institution.  But the Lefts love of “universal benefits” is a trap to sucker everyone into some form of dependency on the state.  Where does that money they give to middle-class families come from in the first place?  The state has no money of its own.  It is taking with one hand, giving back with the other, and expecting grateful thanks.

Deficit And Debt
Both still look scary.  I could suggest a few things we could dump (QE, EU membership, national pay negotiation, Green taxes and wind farms, a large chunk of our foreign aid, 95% of quangos etc etc) and things we could get on with (shale gas, tax cuts) to help, but I suppose you’ve got to believe in Austrian Economics rather than the chancellor’s monetarism for the tax cuts.  Still, Shale Gas is coming, and that will change a lot.  The Greens will squeal, but they can’t stop it.  No government will sit atop billions of pounds worth of energy and do nothing forever.

Planning
I’ll let you know what I think of the changes when I’ve seen them all.  Who knows?  Could be great.  Could be horrible.  But it will be simpler – and that’s something.

Cutting Higher Rate Tax to 45p
I wouldn’t have done this yet.  If its not taking much cash then its also not costing much cash.  The political significance of it made it one that I’d have done later.  But that said, all tax cuts are good. The government shouldn’t be taking 50% of what anybody earns in my opinion.  So I wont lose any sleep over it.

Overall Verdict
It was better than i expected.  But not particularly radical and with some worrying bits.  I notice that no mention was made of Quantitative Easing, which is taking place on a breathtaking scale.  It’s the elephant in the room and its consequences will hit us hard in due course.  Very, very hard.

St. George, Stand And Deliver, The Small Print & Three Thousand Readers

St. George
Every time the question about a national day for the English comes around it seems to get bound up in rhetoric of whether we should, or should not, be proud to be English.  Whether we (as a people) are given to this sort of celebration or not.  Whether we even have anything to be proud of.  Well, I am certainly proud to be English.  I am indeed given to this sort of celebration.  And I do believe that England has a great deal to be proud of.  Times are hard for many and they’re going to get harder.  One of the things that will help get us through is to remember our long, colourful history.  Another is looking at our communities and the decent, proud, generous people who live in them.  We sell ourselves short sometimes, getting bogged down in arguments about benefits cheats, teenage parents, corrupt bankers and knife crime.  Let’s try to remember our good points too.  A national day to keep that in mind is a good thing. 
Happy St. George’s Day!
St Georges Day

Stand And Deliver
Yesterday the Prime Minister put on his mask, strapped guns to his hips and laid in wait on the side of the highway.  The first carriage to come along was carrying the Middle Class.  Gordon leapt out into the road and shouted : “Stand and deliver!  Your Money Or Your Life!”  People might be forgiven for thinking Robin Hood had arrived, stealing from the rich (well, prosperous, anyway) and giving to the poor. 

Until the next wagon to happen by.  “Stick ‘Em Up!  I’ll be taking all your jobs, please.” Gordon ranted, aiming his six guns at a bunch of weary working class travellers.  “I know the prosperous employ everybody else, I just don’t care.  The public sector isn’t big enough yet anyway!”  Leering evilly, Gordon smirked: “Don’t worry, you’ll be looked after.  As long as you meet the criteria.  You need to be a teenager, out of work for six months or more, driving an eleven-year-old car, the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, born on the Sabbath under a blood red moon.”  Or something like that. 

Having now put the lie both to the Big Idea that the middle classes have nothing to fear from New Labour and to their Manifesto commitment against huge tax increases, Gordon Brown finally openly reverts to type.  It’s back to the Seventies with a hit parade of class warfare, economic ruin and social jealousy.  Since today is also William Shakespeare’s Birthday I think a quote is in order. 

O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-ey’d monster, which doth mock
The meat it feeds on.
– Shakespeare’s Othello

I’m aware that my metaphors are something of a mish-mash.  Much like that disastrous nonsense of a fabricated budget.  Give me strength.

The Small Print
At the end of April ’09 we move officially into Campaign Season.  The run-up to the County Council and Euro-Elections mean that some rules come into force which I am advised I must adhere to since I am a candidate for the Roman Bank & Peckover county division.   As a consequence of this I will be obliged to include an amount of ‘Small Print’ at the end of every blog post detailing my Conservative affiliation and some other campaign-related details.  My posts will also be slightly delayed as they will need to be ‘approved’ by my local organising secretary.  She’s a good sport and I’m not particularly controversial, so I don’t anticipate any problems.  I’m only making this advance notification in case anybody wonders why small print suddenly starts appearing at the end of my posts.  It doesn’t mean I’ve sold out, or am under the dictatorial thumb of Big Brother.  It just means (like any good Conservative) that I want to stay within the law and do the right thing as a county candidate.  Somehow, I doubt that telling readers I’m a Conservative at the end of each post is going to be a big surprise to anybody.  But if it is I’d have to ask… what Blog have you been reading all this time? 

Three Thousand Readers
My latest ‘hits count’ for the blog website is three-thousand individual readers a week.  TWELVE THOUSAND a month?  Bloody hell!  (Excuse my French.)  Who are you all?  Thank you for reading but please… leave a comment once in a while!  It’s exciting to know my occasional rant encourages some inspection.  It’d just be nice to get some feedback!  Speak now, or forever hold your pieces.  <Ahem>