Town council bill is set to rise by 8%

Pocklington Mayor Coun Graham Perry
Pocklington Mayor Coun Graham Perry

NEXT year’s town council bill could rise by up to 8% for Pocklington residents.

Town councillors discussed the 2012/2013 budget at a special meeting last week and a guideline precept increase of around 8% was the result.

This would cost Band D rate payers an extra £5.31 per year.

The increase has not been finalised and the town council is due to look at the budget again at its next meeting on 14 December to see whether further savings can be made.

Speaking at last Wednesday’s meeting, Pocklington Mayor Coun Graham Perry said: “The town council has managed to keep a 0% increase over the last two years, in good faith, but you do reach the point where you start to spiral backwards.”

Major costs in the budget include over £30,000 on the Arts Centre mortgage, £10,000 on the town’s Christmas lights and £18,000 on repairs and maintenance - primarily to fix the Arts Centre’s leaking roof.

An additional £15,700 was factored into next year’s budget as councillors considered taking out a loan to develop the first floor of the Arts Centre, though three councillors voted against this expenditure.

Mayor Perry, who was in favour, said: “It is the next big step - how do we bring the first floor alive for the benefit of the people of Pocklington?

“It is going to cost about £250,000 to join the building up - the £15,000 is to pay off taking out a 25 year loan.”

Concern was expressed by some councillors that the full costs of the development were not yet known and the council agreed to revisit the issue at its next meeting before setting the expense in next year’s budget.

An increase in spending that was unanimously agreed by all councillors was a £6,300 rise in the wage bill to pay for the council’s handyman to work full-time and to employ the council office cleaner for an extra hour per week.

This decision pushed up the council’s National Insurance and pensions contributions by over £1,000, but should cut some of the costs associated with the cemetery upkeep as a contractor would no longer be needed to cut the grass if the handyman takes responsibility for it.

Another increase discussed and provisionally agreed was to double the £1,000 ‘entertaining’ bill in expectation of Diamond Jubilee celebrations next year.

Councillors are also considering a request for £3,000 to keep the Citizen’s Advice office open in Pocklington and a decision still needs to be made on whether the town council should pay East Riding Council to keep car parking free in Pocklington.

Councillors indicated that the option to keep parking free for two hours is the preferred one, adding an extra £3,850 to the council’s annual costs.

Overall, the meeting concluded that the town council needs to set a precept of around £219,000 to cover all its expected expenditure in the next financial year.

This figure is provisional, and further discussion of the budget on next week will see town councillors discuss how to minimise the increase on rate payers whilst still being able to cover its projected costs.