Town council budget under scrutiny

WHITBY TOWN Council is hoping to freeze the parish precept despite discussions about raising charges.

Town clerk, Pam Dobson told the Whitby Gazette she was currently working on a budget similar to last year despite some councillors suggesting the tax be raised to allow the authority to take on more roles within the community.

For the last two years the precept has been £229,000 which works out at £45.18 a year per household - less than £1 per week.

But at a finance committee meeting the budget for next year and the possibility of raising it was discussed.

Afterwards, Coun Phil Trumper told the Gazette it had been suggested as a way of funding some of the other responsibilities the town council wanted to take on such as the maintenance of the harbour, the Church Street toilets and Whitby Cemetery.

But he said: “I am dead against it. I would like to freeze it again for next year. The reason [it was discussed] was just in case we have any other projects we need to pay for.

“My argument is, there is already money that is not being spent. That underspend could be used for the future. We could move things around and move that money to a different area.”

Ms Dobson said when she works out the budget, all the services the council currently provide and what they want to provide are put into the pot and if it can’t afford everything, one by one things are taken out.

She said she was aware some councillors had suggested raising the precept but until anything had been formally put to the full town council and agreed she was working to “zero growth”.

There was also a possibility it could decrease if the tax base, calculated on the number of homes in the town, goes up because of new homes which have been built over the last year.

She added: “We know at this stage there are certain things we are going to do, certain things that we have already done so we won’t have to include.”

Coun Simon Parkes was one of the councillors in favour of raising the precept - but only if there was a particular project to warrant any increase.

He added: “The only way that I would agree to it going up was if there was some specific extra benefit to the community - if we were going to take on the cemetery or some part. That is the only way that I could see that we would possibly raise it.

“If it was a status quo and there was no benefit, we should freeze it. We are all having to tighten our belts and it is not right for politicians to ask people to pay more when we are in this terrible situation.”

The precept is expected to be set at the January full council meeting.

Some of the services currently provided by Whitby Town Council include the art gallery, Christmas lights, allotments, town notice boards and the armed forces events.