Council tax frozen after eventful but non event year
- Credit: Archant
Wisbech Town Council will freeze its portion of council tax for next year after Covid-19 offered a swings and roundabouts outcome on expenditure and income for the current financial year.
“As a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, the council has suffered a loss of income such as its markets, Wisbech Castle and events,” town clerk Terry Jordan told Monday’s policy and resources committee.
“However, this ‘deficit’ has been more than offset by reductions in expenditure such as events, elections and new Christmas lighting etc, for the same reason.”
The committee approved a draft budget for the financial year 2021/22 to generate income of £368,885 which equates (when divided by 6,408 homes) to an annual cost of £57.57 for a Council Tax Band D equivalent property; a 0 per cent increase for households in Wisbech.
The committee agreed that additional ear-marked reserves be created:
Christmas lighting: £20,000
Anti-incinerator campaign – specialist advice: £30,000
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Match funding towards the cost of new community building at Wisbech Park: £10,000
Match funding towards the cost of a water play facility at Wisbech Park: £2,500
Mr Jordan said it was difficult to predict accurately for 2021/22 the level of income from markets and car booting activities.
“It would not be appropriate to predict next year’s estimated income on this year’s actual income, because of the negative impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had (because of periods of lockdown) upon market trading,” he said.
“It is not clear yet whether there will be trading restrictions in the financial year 2021/22.”
Market pitches had been expected to gross £48,000 this year but is likely to only have taken £20,000.
And he expected car boot income for the year to be £700 instead of the expected £5,000.
On castle income he said the income estimate for this year of £9,000 “was always optimistic/aspirational”. The castle income was £350.
He said the estimated income for the coming year ought to be reduced to £5,000 and this was agreed.
Mr Jordan said there was the opportunity, if members so wished, to reduce the expenditure budget for Wisbech Castle (from £20,000) “but this would not leave much ‘wriggle room’”.
He said it is currently estimated that the fixed costs of operating Wisbech Castle during the current financial year will be around £14,000.
“For example, the business rates are in excess of £5,000 per annum, the cost of making loan re-payments to the county council is £4,320 per annum plus there are costs for gas, electricity, broadband, servicing for intruder alarm and fire alarm emergency lighting etc,” he said.
“A reduction to, say, £18,000 would show that the council is continuing with its ambition to reduce the costs of operating Wisbech Castle.”
He said it was clear from meetings of the Wisbech Town Council Anti-incinerator working party that the council is likely to need a “fighting fund”.
The committee approved a revenue fund of £5,000 to meet the cost of publicity, campaigning materials, public meetings etc. The £30,000 earmarked reserve, also agreed, would be available further along the line if it was needed.
Mr Jordan also said that members had made it known they wished to create a community support fund.
"This could be used to provide funding towards the cost of projects which are not being delivered by Wisbech Town Council,” said the clerk.
“For example, to meet the cost of providing additional play equipment as part of a district council scheme for the town.”
The committee agreed to include £20,000 in the draft budget for the financial year 2021/22.
One other item approved by the committee will improve access to the town hall.
Mr Jordan said the current chair lift was out of action and engineers had decommissioned it.
He said the existing lift was between 25 and 30 years old.
Councillors agreed a quote of £5,600 for a re-conditioned replacement.
The committee also agreed to contribute £1,000 to an appeal by Wisbech Sea Cadets to replace heating in their meeting hall.