Thu, 02 Feb 2017
NEWBURY Town Council has approved its spending for next year as it takes on the cost of a host of new services from West Berkshire Council.
The council is forecasting a total spend of almost £1.4m in the next financial year.
However, despite the new financial burden, the town’s taxpayers will not be expected to pay more, with no increase planned for the precept.
The news will come as a welcome relief to residents following last year’s 4.6-per-cent hike.
Owing to a series of unprecedented cuts, West Berkshire Council has asked the district’s parish and town councils to take on the running of a range of services, from libraries to grit bins.
The handover of such services will see Newbury Town Council pay more than £31,000 toward the running of the district’s libraries, £10,000 to refill the town’s grit bins and more than £11,000 to keep the public toilets at the Wharf open.
The council is also set to pay a further £16,899 to cover staff pay and pension increases, while losing the Precept Support Grant of £18,384.
The added strains on the council budget have, however, been offset against a £59,000 saving owing to the discontinued Neighbourhood Wardens service, and an £8,000 saving on a reduced visitor information centre service which will be run from the Town Hall.
The council has also benefited from a one-off £6,000 reduction in CCTV spending owing to a delay in reinstating the cameras, while the town authority has seen an income of £12,000 from the Town Hall’s suites.
In a report put to councillors, Newbury Town Council leader Dave Goff (Con, Clay Hill) wrote: “It is quite right that local government should be fully funded out of local resources (council tax, business rates etc), but this is a journey that is not yet complete.
“This journey is causing significant financial pressure for West Berkshire Council and this is impacting on the services that they deliver.”
Explaining the decision to provide funding for West Berkshire libraries, he said the money would help ensure the continuation of “some library services”.
The town council is budgeting £12,000 towards a contribution to the Newbury Business Improvement District for this year’s Christmas lights.
Before voting on the budget, Martha Vickers (Lib Dem, Northcroft) said: “The Liberal Democrats group agrees not to raise the precept, but does not agree with how the budget will be managed.
“The Newbury library is not threatened with closure and we believe this money would have been better spent on services which will directly benefit Newbury residents, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau.”
Conservative councillors voted in favour of the budget, while the four Liberal Democrat councillors present abstained at a meeting of the full council on Monday.