Festive windfall for town council

Berwick Town Council's coffers are to be swelled by £170,000 thanks to funding from the Freemen trustees.

Friday, 29th December 2017, 06:24 am

Revenue from the Freemen’s Estate is given every year but this year’s figure is nearly double the long-term average.

As a result, the council has decided to freeze its element of the council tax precept for 2018/19.

Members had previously agreed a nine per cent rise.

Coun Anne Forbes said: “If we’d gone ahead with that, we’d have turned into modern-day Dick Turpins, robbing the people of Berwick.

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“Now the figure we’re getting from the Freemen is known we don’t need to increase the precept any more.”

Councillors had previously agreed to levy a precept of £274,103 based on an expected contribution of £95,000 from the Freemen Trustees Schedule III income. This represented a £4.71 annual increase for a Band D property.

That figure was derived by adding the £20,000 deficit on the proposed budget to the previous year’s precept.

Clerk Gareth Davies said the £75,000 surplus now in place thanks to the Freemen’s income would have a significant effect on the council’s out-turn but he also advised caution.

“That doesn’t give us any information about what we are going to receive from the Freemen trustees next year. They have not indicated whether this is a windfall or a reflection of a long-term trend so we still have to set a budget for next year and the mean (from the Freemen) is £95,000 to £100,000.”

He added that if the out-turn in 2018/19 was a lower surplus, or even a deficit, because the Schedule III payment had returned at or below the historical mean, the effect would be, in the 2019/20 budget, to require an increase in precept requirement.

“In very broad numbers, if the unfunded expenditure in 2018/19 is £20,000, then in 2019/20 the gap between income and expenditure, if the income from Schedule III returns to the historic mean, will be £40,000 which will demand in one go an increase of the precept of double that envisaged for this year or a contribution from reserves of £40,000,” explained Mr Davies.

“Given that the likely surplus in 2017/18 is £75,000, the additional sum added to reserves by 2019/20 would have diminished by £15,000, and by 2020/21, the precept requirement increase would be up to between £60,000 to £80,000 - or between 25-33 per cent of the current precept requirement.”