Brixham Town Council has set its budget and precept for the next financial year, despite being uncertain whether Torbay Council will pass on a major grant from central government.
The budget of £290,180 and precept of £194,300 put forward by the council’s finance and general purposes committee were approved at the full council meeting on Thursday evening by 10 votes to two.
The budget is broken down into £123,000 on administration, £125,000 on Brixham town hall, £19,500 on finance and £22,500 on projects and grants.
The precept has increased from 2013-14 by £1,850 or one per cent, and gives a level of payment for an average Band D property of £27.92.
However, Torbay Council has proposed, in its budget consultation, not passing on the £37,000 council tax benefit support grant given by the government to Torbay Council to forward to the town council. If the grant is not passed on, this will have the effect of increasing the precept by 25 per cent and the average Band D payment to £34.49.
Cllr Mike Morey, who is a member of both Brixham Town and Torbay Councils, said: “We have to set our budget by the end of January but we won’t get a decision about the £37,000 until the second or third week of February. It seems to be the wrong way round. I find it abysmal the Mayor is looking to not pass it on.”
Cllr Matthew James, who also sits on both councils, said: “We’ve fought quite hard to get this £37,000. The Mayor won’t come back with an answer.”
Cllr Lynne Armstrong said: “It’s not fair to ask us to decide on this budget until we know what Torbay Council will do about the grant.” Cllr Jessica Stock said the town council had been ‘put in a very awkward position’ and Cllr Jackie Stockman said the money ‘morally belongs to Brixham’.
The town council responded to Torbay Council’s budget consultation to say the town council’s project to take over Shoalstone Pool, which has estimated annual running costs of £30,000, is ‘possibly under threat without the government grant being paid, as it should be’.
The response also said there is ‘resentment in Brixham at the unfairness of Brixham having to pay for its own town hall whilst also contributing to equivalent amenities in Torquay and Paignton’. It said the town hall, which the town council took over from Torbay Council in 2012, had been ‘badly neglected and was in need of much repair and renovation’ and ‘the expenditure to bring the building up to the required level of safety and modern standards means the building is not yet breaking even’.
The expenditure relating to the town hall in 2014-15 is estimated at £125,700, which will be set against the projected income of £65,880 and £30,000 from reserves.
Cllr Stock said at the council meeting that expenditure on the town hall was ‘way over budget last year’ and further refurbishment has been ‘put on hold because we don’t have the money’ but the leaking roof will be fixed as a matter of urgency. She said the utility bill had increased significantly ‘due to the fact the town hall is being used more’.
The budget for staff salaries has gone up £3,000 to £95,000 due to pension payments. Cllr Chris Lomas said staff salaries were ‘the biggest issue we should be discussing’.
The budget for seasonal displays has decreased by £4,000. Cllr Martyn Hodge warned that without ‘support from the business community or maybe a decent sponsor’ there will not be any Christmas lights. He said: “Our illuminations are getting tired and wearing out.”
Story by Caroline Abbott, Senior Reporter, The Herald Express
Reproduced by kind permission of author/publisher