Council tax set to be frozen again
POCKLINGTON Town Council is set to freeze its share of the council tax demand, but there are warnings that it could come at a cost.
At the recent meeting of the full council, the majority of councillors voted to keep a zero per cent precept for the second year running, despite Mayor of Pocklington Councillor Martin Cooper saying that it could mean a large increase next year.
Coun Cooper has also warned that by keeping the precept at zero, the council may have to borrow more money to fund projects such as repairing the Pocklington Arts Centre leaking roof, which could cost between £200,000 and £250,000.
He said: “I can understand the position of fellow councillors, that we are living in times where we have to tighten our belts, but unfortunately the town council could easily be left with some very large bills.
“My worry is that if we do not offset these potential bills by increasing the precept even marginally then the amount we have to borrow will be greater – it’s simple maths.
“Surely we should learn from the national situation that we can’t keep borrowing. At the moment if we set a zero per cent precept we are actually setting it at a loss because of inflation.”
Coun Cooper wanted to raise the precept to five per cent, which would have helped pay for repairing the Arts Centre roof and other projects including the digitisation and 3D installation in the Arts Centre, costing around £20,000, and also leasing the towns car parks from East Riding Council which could cost £20,000 upward.
The council also hopes to lease Primrose Wood from East Riding Council and contribute to a new park on the Broadmanor estate.
He felt by raising the tax, it would have then minimised the amount of potential borrowing.
Last year he wanted to raise the council tax to three per cent in line with inflation, but his proposition did not get the support of fellow councillors who voted against an increase because they felt taxpayers in Pocklington had suffered enough from the recession.
He feels the people of Pocklington understand the need to increase the precept sooner rather than later.
Coun Cooper said: “Last year it was proposed to increase the precept by three per cent, but it did not get seconded. We were looking at 18p per month for an average band D household.
“When you put it in monetary terms, it’s not as bad as it seems. You can’t even buy a Toffee Crisp for 18p these days, half a Toffee Crisp even.
“Something has to give when you continually set a zero per cent precept. We have reserves but they are in the region of £80,000 to £90,000. We cannot use all the reserves. If we are to be prudent then we must keep a large part of these reserves intact.”
“I’ve spoken to 15 to 20 people already, and after I’ve explained it to them in full, every single one of them has agreed that we have to increase the precept.
“If I’m wrong, then great, I will hold my hands up and I’d be happy to say I was wrong, but if I’m right then in future years I won’t like to say what the precept will be.”
The councillors who voted against the mayor believe that an increase in council tax would be wrong when many people are still feeling the effects of the recession and struggling to pay their bills.
Councillor Tony Marron said: “I believe Pocklington Council should let the citizens of Pocklington know that we appreciate that there will be many people and families struggling with their finances during these harsh economic times.
“The government is cutting costs where it can and the county council is being told to cut costs and set a zero per cent increase in council tax then I think our local town council should play its part and set its budget accordingly.
“Hopefully with the new ideas from the Coalition Government about localism, then Pocklington Town Council will be able to take more control of the resources currently wasted or misspent by East Riding of Yorkshire Council and use them for the benefit of Pocklington citizens and the town in the future.”
Coun Marron claims the council have the reserve so that they could dip into it if they needed some extra finances to pay for unforeseen projects.
He said: “Pocklington Town Council always operates its finances in a prudent manner and has done for many years under the excellent guidance of the town clerk, Richard Wood, and we have reserves, as we are supposed to have, so that we should be able to cope should there be a requirement for emergency or unforeseen expenditure.”
Meanwhile, the precepts set by East Riding Council, Humberside Police and Humberside Fire and Rescue Service are yet to be determined.
The majority of householders’ annual council tax goes towards East Riding Council.