Acquiring Wisbech Castle to put up town’s local council tax by over 30 per cent - but do they have the skills to run the castle?

Wisbech Castle

Wisbech Castle - Credit: Archant

For the second time in six years, council tax payers face a 30 per cent rise in the local precept set by Wisbech Town Council.

In 2012 the council raised their precept by 35 per cent to help finance acquisition of the lease of the Bramley Line (£10,000 plus £50,000 in legal costs but it never happened).

Now the town council is back among the high percentage rollers after agreeing the coming year’s local precept should rise by 34 per cent to pave the way for buying another lease, this time for Wisbech Castle.

Town council leader Sam Hoy said the average household would pay an extra £57.87 a year compared to £43.16.

She said the rise was needed because of the council’s “increasing role” in delivering and enhancing services including taking on Wisbech Castle, improving the Market Place, taking on extra parking near the Queen Mary Centre and improving public toilets.

Although the percentage increase in the precept may look high, the actual financial amount is not – what else is a household in Wisbech able to purchase for around £1.00 a month? said Cllr Hoy.

“Over the last few years Wisbech Town Council has set very low levels of parish precept and there becomes a time at which such a situation can no longer be sustained; in fact, until the financial year 2016/17 Wisbech Town Council had not increased its parish precept since the financial year 2012/13; for the financial year 2015/16, the level of precept was actually reduced by 1.2 per cent.”

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Town mayor Steve Tierney said that it was noticeable “regular critics weren’t cheering when the council froze or cut the council tax over those years.

“In the same way they would have been quick to damn the town council if it had let the castle go into private ownership.

“Some folks want to find fault whatever happens, but Wisbech town councillors seek to do the best for the people of Wisbech at the most reasonable rates they can.”

However Fenland councillor Virginia Bucknor, a former town councillor, said she did not believe Cllr Hoy and her colleagues had the expertise to manage the castle.

“If the professionals within the Wisbech Society or specialists with the High Street Project were involved that would be a different matter,” she said.

Cllr Bucknor said the castle would soak up £35,000 in legal fees alone and “our local taxes will have to go up substantially for many years to come as the council, although borrowing £150,000 for initial castle repairs, will require many hundreds of thousands to be spent on it”.