Town council approves its budget plans

Berwick Town Council has agreed to freeze its precept, helping to minimise any increase in residents’ council tax bills.

Thursday, 7th February 2019, 10:11 am
Updated Wednesday, 6th February 2019, 15:16 pm

A revised budget with no increase in the household precept for a Band D property of £77.09 was approved by the full council last week.

The overall budget envelope shows an increase in expenditure of £33,576, up from £374,633 to £408,209. Of this, total precept income is £261,879.

This would have resulted in a shortfall in income compared to budget of £15,900 but councillors agreed to cover this by increasing the budget from Freemen Trust income from £125,000 to £140,846.

“Given that this rise is almost exactly the shortfall, officers can cautiously recommend that, in these circumstances, this would represent a balanced budget,” reported town clerk Gareth Davies. “Unlike last year, this is not a deficit budget. There is no need to transfer funds from reserves.”

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However, he added a note of caution: “As officers we are duty bound to point out that the combination of circumstances that have arisen in 2018-19 (a favourable change in the council tax base and a higher than expected payment from the Freemen Trust) are far from guaranteed to repeat. We are not privy to the investment decisions of the Freemen Trust.”

Last month, the budget and administration committee had called for the precept to be frozen in light of a £192,000 windfall from the Freemen Trust, disapproving of a recommended 2.58% precept rise.

Mr Davies admitted: “We should have asked earlier in the process what your priorites were. If we had taken account of those priorities it would have been a simpler process. It’s a learning point for us as officers.”

The council has allocated £57,500 of Freemen Trust income to capital growth items. This is made up of £25,000 towards the refurbishment of Highcliffe play park, £20,000 for play park repairs and £12,500 for new Christmas lights.