Hike of 9% in precept divides St Austell town councillors
ST AUSTELL residents face a 9.32 per cent hike in their contribution towards the town council precept – despite the authority having nearly a quarter of a million pounds in reserves.
At a full town council meeting held on Monday, councillors narrowly voted in favour of the rise, by seven votes to six with two abstentions, which will see the average Band D property paying £38.07 towards services delivered by the town council over the next financial year.
In November, the town council's finance committee recommended a 1.32 per cent rise in the precept.
However, following announcements of further cuts made by Cornwall Council, on Monday the town council voted in favour of maintaining services currently funded by the local authority and opted to increase the precept in order to do so.
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During the meeting several councillors called for the additional costs to be taken from the town council's reserves.
Town and Cornwall councillor Malcolm Brown said: "We have quite a lot of money in our bank account and we could probably soak up some of the extra costs."
Town councillor Sandra Heyward said: "I think that 1.3 per cent is absolutely fine. I fail to see why we are going up to 9. I think we should start looking at our own house before we start looking at putting up the council tax."
During the meeting councillors voted in favour of funding weed-killing in the town – a service that costs £14,000 a year and which Cornwall Council said it would no longer fund.
In addition, the councillors were told grass-cutting and car park cleaning was likely to be axed by Cornwall Council but the clerk could not be certain of how much it would cost the town council to maintain those services.
Town councillor John Keast said the rise in the precept was needed in order to maintain services and to protect the town council from further cuts over the next few years.
"The increases are regrettable but obviously some kind of increase is necessary," he said. "I think we really would be wise to try to put this council in the best position possible for next year and the year after.
"I know it seems like a very high percentage but the actual figure is quite low – around £3.24. It seems to me to be less than a pint of beer.
"We would still be well below the average parish and town council so I don't think it would be extravagant."
Councillor Jenny Stewart added: "Although I don't like putting the council tax up, I don't want to see a bigger hike in two years' time. I would rather see it go up gradually."
The 2014-15 budget includes £39,000 set aside for the council to take over the monitoring of CCTV in the town.
In addition, a further £110,000 has been set aside in reserves for devolution of services.