Horncastle Town Council to take on extra planning responsibilites but who will foot the bill?

Coun Brian Burbidge.
Coun Brian Burbidge.

East Lindsey District Council should stump up the cash to cover the additional work involved in Horncastle Town Council taking on extra planning responsibilities, it has been claimed.

As revealed in the News, Horncastle will become only the second town/parish council in the country to be handed the power to decide low profile planning applications.

Town councillors, clerk Amanda Bushell and deputy clerk Michelle Moss have all received training from planning officers at ELDC.

It is expected the town council will start making decisions in October, although that date has still to be ratified by ELDC.

However, Mrs Moss warned members of the planning committee at a meeting last week that the extra responsibility would result in an extra workload for herself and Mrs Bushell.

Mrs Moss and Mrs Bushell admitted that could impact on the time they had available to fulfil other duties.

Planning committee member, Coun Angela Birchall, said she was concerned the clerk and deputy would have to work more hours.

Coun Birchall suggested the obvious way of raising funds to cover a higher wage bill was to increase the precept - the amount the town council charges local council taxpayers.

As an alternative, Coun Birchall said that as the town council was effectively reducing ELDC’s workload, the district council should be asked to contribute.

Coun Birchall added: “It seems only fair that we should at least approach East Lindsey.

“I wouldn’t be happy increasing the precept for this.”

However, planning committee chairman Coun Brian Burbidge said he seriously doubted ELDC would agree.

Committee members were told ELDC would still be involved in the process with staff attending town council meetings to advise and help with the decision-making process.

Coun Burbidge said it was impossible at this stage to work out how many extra hours town council clerks would have to work.

However, he said that if the town council found the decision making process ‘too onerous’, they could hand the responsibility back to ELDC.

Coun Birchall said she had raised concerns about the increased costs when the arrangements were first discussed.

She added it was wrong that the potential impact had ‘not been addressed.’

Town and county councillor Bill Aron said it was too late to insist on major changes and pointed out the full town council had already agreed to the process.

Meanwhile, committee members backed a request from Coun Burbidge for more training before October.

Although he praised ELDC for their support, Coun Burbidge said he was ‘less than impressed’ by part of the most recent training.