Town council set to make a U-turn on its precept pledge

Berwick Town Council is poised to raise its precept '“ three months after a decision was taken to freeze it.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 25 February, 2016, 07:30

Last November’s decision was revisited at Monday night’s budget meeting after a petition by six councillors was submitted.

Members were already aware that the decision to freeze the precept with a draft budget was not compliant with financial regulations.

Councillor Georgina Hill, who has continually called for the precept to be frozen, argued that income exceeds expenditure when the freemen’s money is taken into account.

She also felt it was unfair to ask residents to pay more, especially with the Jus-Rol closure looming.

She said: “We’re in a very healthy position where there is plenty in reserves and projected income covers projected outgoings, with £65,000 left over.”

However, her proposal to that effect was rejected by 10 votes to five.

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The majority of councillors now appear to favour an increase as a way of generating revenue.

Councillors were unable to make a final decision, however, as it was deemed Councillor Paul Hodgson’s alternative could not legally be considered on the night. It means they will have to reconvene on Monday.

Councillor Hodgson said: “It all looks good with reserves of £250,000 but if you take out £120,000 for play parks, of which £80,000 is already committed, then it’s substantially reduced in real terms.

“We have a budget deficit of £32,000 and that will double next year if we freeze the precept. The council’s running costs should be met by the precept, not reserves.”

He said that increasing the precept to cover the £32,000 deficit would be a £10 increase per household. A £50,000 rise would mean a £15 increase and a £100,000 rise would be £30.