Town council is split over its budget plans

A formal proposal to freeze Berwick Town Council's precept for 2016/17 will be tabled at Monday night's budget meeting.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 18 February, 2016, 09:17

The proposal will be made by Councillor Georgina Hill who insists there is no need to increase the precept.

She points out that the council’s reserves stand at more than £250,000 and that projected income (£314,149) is sufficient to cover proposed expenditure.

“Berwick Town Council is, therefore, in the enviable position of being able to freeze the precept without cutting any service and can deliver on new spending commitments, pending further consultation and agreement by the council,” she reasons. “There are no grounds to increase the council-tax burden on residents.”

She believes there is still room for further savings to be made and has called for proposed funding on an apprentice, grant funding officer, war memorial repair and Hide Hill premises leads to be taken out of spending plans or put under a general heading.

“These can be revisited and taken out of general reserves once properly considered/staffing review has taken place,” she said. “Alternatively, as long as they are not treated as having been approved, I could possibly live with these items remaining but my non-negotiable position is that the precept must remain at the current level and we do not increase the council-tax burden on our hard-pressed residents.”

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However, Councillor Alex Gibson is among those who support an increase in the precept.

He said: “I don’t agree with Cllr Hill wanting to freeze the precept. I know that it is a bad time to ask for the precept to rise as fellow citizens are losing ther jobs.

“If it doesn’t, Berwick will fall behind towns like Morpeth and Ashington and there won’t be facilities for visitors who we rely on.”

He points out that Morpeth’s precept is currently £535,000 compared to £218,000 in Berwick.

“If the precept was to go up by £50,000 that would cost £15 per annum per household,” he said. “If it went up by £100,000 it would cost £30 per annum and I’d support the latter.”