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Council considers £48k tax increase

By Mid Devon Gazette  |  Posted: December 11, 2012

Cllr Gordon Guest

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CULLOMPTON Town Council faces a tough decision over what sacrifices need to be made in order to avoid rises in taxation.

The authority will discuss the rate of its share of next financial year's council tax and figures released to the Gazette suggest a £48,000 increase has been mooted.

Mayor Councillor Gordon Guest said this sum is by no means decided and members will discuss a range of options at a meeting on Thursday.

"That is not the final figure, it is up for discussion," Cllr Guest said.

"As I would expect on the council, there will be those who want us to cut it massively and not increase the precept and those who feel that is unrealistic and that we will need to have an increase of some kind."

Cllr Guest said there will be four precept amounts which will be debated but a final decision will not be made. The town council must submit a proposed precept level to Mid Devon District Council by January 25.

Members have received a document outlining what needs to be considered, including the increase in costs of utility bills, the cut to their grants by district and county councils, the cost of repairing and maintaining assets such as the town hall and Upcott Field. In addition St Andrew's Car Park and the cemetery are undergoing a refurbishment.

The authority needs to prepare for unforeseen events, such as repairing staff vehicles and the possibility of taking over other responsibilities, such as the management of public toilets if that is devolved by the district authority.

Lower precept rates with reductions of £16,000 and £22,000 are also being considered but when members of the public are consulted they will be reminded that "every cut has a consequence".

Cllr Guest said the council has received complaints over the lack of grass-cutting in the cemetery and responding to this will also have its cost.

"We are looking at a number of scenarios and what we can increase and decrease and we have still got the cemetery extension which has got to carry on.

"Are we going to carry on with that this financial year or next financial year? Every council has these kinds of discussions."

Costs associated with street cleaning, producing the Cullompton Crier newsletter and hanging floral baskets will also be looked at. Town clerk Nina Ashley said a significant saving had been made on the car park revamp.

A document has been sent to all town council members which puts last year's precept of £145,000 into context. The town has a population of 11,172, according to Devon County Council, and similar-sized Honiton had a precept of £167,931.

The spreadsheet released to the Gazette, highlighted much of the council's expenditure, including a proposal to increase the precept from £145,000 to £193,160 which was discussed at a recent meeting.

Town clerk Nina Ashley said: "I think it is dangerous to rely on figures that have not even been seen by the full council yet. Only a handful of councillors were at that meeting and it could be completely changed by Thursday."

The meeting starts at 7pm.

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