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.