Precept frozen at heated meeting

WHITBY TOWN Council agreed to freeze the parish precept at a meeting which decsended into a row when former councillor Pete Budd criticised members for ignoring his suggestion to provide funds for a woman bishop.

Mr Budd of Sandside arrived at Pannett Park Art Gallery just after the meeting had been closed and a precept of £227,500 agreed for 2013/2014 which remains the same as the current financial year.

He said he has asked the town council six times to raise the precept by £20,000 which would fund a bishop’s rail fares to and from London. It would also mean a visit to the town from the Queen to install the bishop.

But outside the official meeting, Mayor of Whitby, Coun John Freeman said funding clergy was not within the remit of the town council.

He said: “I don’t have a problem with a woman bishop and I don’t think any of us do but if you mention to the population of Whitby would it put 10 per cent on the precept to pay for a bishop I think the answer would be no.”

Prior to that the entire town council, with the exception of Couns Steve and Amanda Smith, had voted in favour of the proposed budget in front of them.

The main costs to the council are set to be £90,000 on salaries alone, £6000 on electric bills and £12,000 on gas and a further £12,000 on maintenance. Income will come primarily from the precept and admission fees into the museum and art gallery.

With the precept set at £227,500 it means the town council costs the average band D tax payer £45.18p per year.

But couns Amanda and Steve Smith said the budget was “intolerable” after claiming it showed a rise in staffing costs of £17,525 in two years yet just £13,850 was being spent on services.

At a previous meeting they had said: “We cannot vote for a budget which increases staffing costs, nor can we vote for a budget where the percentage spends on provision of services to the residents is so pitifully meagre.”

But at Tuesday night’s meeting the budget was passed.

Coun Phil Trumper said: “Whitby Town Council are proving we can freeze the precept without cutting staff and servicing and have set an apprentice scheme which will give an opportunity for a young Whitby person to come off the dole and get a job.”

Afterwards, Mayor John Freeman paid tribute to town clerk Pam Dobson and the finance committee for for their hard work in making sure the precept stayed the same.