At tonights meeting of Bridgwater Town Council, Cllr Brian Smedley, as Leader, laid out the proposals for the 2018-19 budget and explained the thinking behind it. The plan is for a ‘Continuation budget’ so that popular projects from the previous year such as the Quayside Festival, the Rollercoaster, the 3 Community Centres in Sydenham,Hamp and Victoria, the Bridgwater Art Centre and the Town Team can be continued at the same level of funding plus with a modest rise in precept the new ‘Youth grant’ can be extended and a major review of Street Cleaning, Toilet Provision and Town Council Staff can be undertaken along with key works to the Town Hall brought forward to upgrade toilets, the kitchen, the PA system and to bring the whole building into DDA compliance. The Budget proposals were carried with no dissent and a period of scrutiny is now underway.
The Leaders Speech in Full
Cllr Smedley explained the budget process. The ruling Labour group had discussed the type of budget they wished to implement and Finance committee had approved this. It was now being presented to Full Council for consideration and approval.
“We note the continued reduction of Grant from Government to Local Authorities. The grant in 2017/18 was £45,130. The actual grant for 2018/19 will be £21,987 In 2019/20 this will be NIL
ACTION 1 Our policy has been to run a Continuation Budget – ie keep what we have in the budget from last year. This would entail NO CUTS if we maintain precepts at standstill. The Continuation Budget from 2017-18 to 2018-19 means the continued inclusion in the budget for 2018-19 of the growth items for Youth, Quayside Festival, Rollercoaster, Art Centre, Community Centres, Town Team, and Staff adjustments. This demonstrates our strong commitment to regeneration through our Cultural partnership, and our lead member there is Cllr Tony Heywood, and our belief in strong support for our artistic and creative community.
Growing Tax Base
We have a growing tax base – which is a useful way to eventually narrow our targets, although this has not grown as much as predicted.
Tax base – 2017/18 = 9,492.31 2018/19 = 9,720.82
Precept Increase Options
54.00 (Standstill) = precept of £523,338 = 0 cuts 0 growth
55.00 (+1) = precept of £533,029 = growth of £9,691
56.00 (+2) = precept of £542,721 = growth of £19,383
56.5 (+2.50 as last year) = precept of £549,226 = growth of £25,888
ACTION 2 BTC increases its precept by no more than 2.50 thereby acquiring an overall precept of £549,226 with a resulting growth figure of £25,888
We maintain a contingency fund for the Town Hall of £50,000 There is an additional £15,000 in the budget making £65,000. These are the identified priority items in order.
1.Male toilets (10k) 2. Kitchen (5k) 3.PA system (12k) 4. Access to upper building/ stairlift (10k) 5-Red Curtains 6-Chairs
ACTION 3 BTC approves expenditure of £37,000 during 2018-19 to cover items 1-4 + approves proposals to increase fees in accordance with existing policy. The Town Hall refurb scheme be enacted urgently in priority order by the Town Hall WP, and authorises Cllr Leigh Redman to become a keyholder and to oversee the ongoing accelerated project.
Street Cleaning & Toilets
Town Centre Cleaning BTC last year budgeted £25.000 towards street cleaning and £40,000 towards toilet provision. The 2018 closure of the Taunton Road Toilets will save £8,470.
ACTION 4 Cllr Pearce has a long-standing brief to look into the environmental policies of the town council and part of this should be to consider the state of street cleaning & toilets in the town centre. She should immediately set up an Environmental Working Party involving Clean Surroundings and make recommendations for the future of street cleaning and toilet provision within this overall budget (£65,000) focusing on increased provision within existing budgets such as, extended use of the ‘Green machine’ and a major review of cleaning in the town centre. This review should also ‘consider’ introducing a ‘community toilet scheme’ based on the Frome model which involves setting aside a fund to identify several toilets within shops in the town centre as ‘publicly accessible’ and to make a payment to these businesses for this.
In 2017-18 we agreed that “Town Council will produce a ‘Focus on Youth’ themed budget for 2017/18 “accordingly we introduced a YOUTH fund of £7,000. Our ‘continuation approach’ should include this for 2018-19
ACTION 5 BTC should increase youth allocation to £10,000 but with £3k allocated from the £39k general grants
PROMOTING OUR TOWN
We previously agreed to introduce a ‘Promoting Our Town ‘budget for 2018/19 (this would tie in with our proposed review of how we market the town and council). The review has now been formalised as a ‘Tourism Working Party’ with a view to extending to a Forum at some time in the future. So far we have re-allocated within our budgets to identify costs for existing promotions and for extra publicity items such as calendars and postcards.
ACTION 6 BTC should continue this process throughout 2018-19 whilst monitoring the costs within existing budgets with a view to eventually establishing a separate budget heading
ACTION 7 Whilst seeking to maintain a standstill continuity budget we are nevertheless faced with possible and actual staff changes now and for 2018-19. This gives us the opportunity of a wide-reaching review
- a) Cllr Lerry should urgently convene a Staff-Sub Committee during December 2017 to coincide with and inform the budget process to relook at ALL staff options , any urgent item and costs relating, job descriptions and salary review for the existing roles of i)Town Clerk ii) Town Office manager iii)Caretaker and to consider other roles,duties or posts for iv)Town Centre Manager v) Bookings, vi)Mayors Officer and to report to Finance during budget process.
- b) This body to also consider a ‘Councillors Carers Allowance’ in order to assist members who struggled to attend meetings due to child care or other costs.
- c) That the precept-increase to the max of + 2.50 be utilised to fund these proposals if needed.
Civic Enhancement Fund Balance Currently stands at £193,464.
ACTION 8 This figure needs to be maintained and targeted largely for matched CIM bids which we need for key projects 1) Celebration Mile 2) Town Centre Support 3) South Bridgwater Connections 4) Blake Gardens (nb £18,495 planned reserve) 5) Docks 6) Victoria Park
- Maintain a Continuation budget of figures within 2017-18 budget
- Raising Precept by 2.50 generating additional Growth of £25,888
- This growth may partly be directed at staff arrangements for 2018-19
Wednesday 29th November Finance ctte – agreed broad direction of travel
Thursday 7 December BTC position agreed at Full Council
Tuesday 12 December Environment Working Party to determine service level agreements with Clean Surroundings
Wednesday 13 December -Staff Working Party to examine job descriptions and to lay out proposals for future staffing levels.
Thursday 11th Jan 2018 Final budget set
Brian Smedley 7.12.2017