Labour controlled Bridgwater Town Council voted through it’s budget for 2017-18 last night with Council Leader Cllr Brian Smedley (Westover) declaring it a ‘continuity budget with growth bids for youth and culture’ made possible by the town’s ‘growing tax base’ and ‘sound financial management over the years‘.
Presenting the Town’s budget to members at the Full Council meeting of January 12th Cllr Smedley stated the following.
“The background to this years budget is the Conservative Government’s continued reduction of grant support to local authorities to such an extent that in 2 years time there will be zero funding from that source. However, Bridgwater is in a fortunate position, not just because this council has taken great care to manage our budget over the years and at the same time built up a contingency reserve but we are also in the positive situation of having a growing tax base. There has to be an up-side to all these new houses being built.”
Fending off Government cuts
“This means that by a minimal rise in the precept of just £2.50 on a band D property we are able to not only fend off the Government cuts, but we can also maintain the growth items for our community that we added into the budget last year and expand our support this year.”
In particular we want to focus on 2 areas where Bridgwater excels, that’s culture and youth. Our continuity budget means that not only do we retain the higher level of funding to the community centres on our estates which we introduced last year and to the Bridgwater Arts Centre, which is a unique asset to the town and a leader in the type of progressive cultural partnership we want to encourage, but we are able to maintain and increase our money to our town centre team which includes extra funding for a major town centre festival event this summer building on the initiative of the successful ‘Big Bash’ held 2 years ago.
On top of this we want to end the uncertainty about the future of the Rollercoaster youth centre in Sydenham and provide the funding they need from Town sources giving the young people on that estate assurance that a valuable facility will survive and prosper.
Major Youth initiative
We also want to launch a major youth initiative under the auspices of our youngest councillor Diogo Rodrigues (Dunwear North). A year back we set up a Town Youth Forum where we brought together young people, youth service providers and other agencies to identify what was needed for youth in the town. This year we want to relaunch that Forum with some financial clout and task Cllr Rodrigues with the mission to get out there and seed fund projects which the young people of the town identify and can build on for the future.
In all of these projects we will persist in targeting and accessing Community Impact Mitigation funding from EDF. CIM bids have already been identified for town centre enhancement and increased leisure bids and we have contributed earmarked matched funds towards these. EDF mustn’t just run rampaging through our town clogging up streets without compensating local businesses and without putting back something substantial into the communities most affected and we will hold them to this.”
“What is also important with this increased level of funding, is that we have watertight procedures for accountability and so to oversee this we have set up a working party to revisit our criteria for grant allocation.!
Our town is growing
Cllr Smedley concluded “Our town is growing and we need to make sure services are maintained and facilities and amenities grow accordingly. Our intention next year is to maintain growth and focus on the promotion of the town, tourism opportunities and regeneration of jobs, shops and amenities.”
The Labour budget was passed unanimously with one abstention from Lib Dem councillor Johnstone.
The Government grant to the Town Council for 17-18 is £45,130. This will be reduced to £22,759 in 18-19 and 0 in 19-20.
Bridgwater’s growing tax base will see a rise from £9,281 (16-17) to £9,492 (17-18) to £9,705 (18-19)
Precept raising options were as follows – standstill budget would mean £11,500 cuts, 50p rise would mean £7,000 cuts, £1 rise would mean £2,250 cuts. £1.50 would see £2,500 growth £2 rise would see £7,200 growth £2.50 rise would bring in £12,000 growth. Higher options would bring in considerable growth but were rejected in order to minimize impact on the tax payer.
Specific cost centres;-
Additional growth +£27,000
Youth Forum +£6,000
Bridgwater Bash +£7,000
Pension/Salary requirements +£4,000
This achieved by £54/£2.50 band D raising £12,000 + internal adjustments and savings +£15,000