Horncastle Town Council - why we’ve gone for 22% increase in tax bill

Horncastle will have to dig deeper to pay a rise in council tax bills.
Horncastle will have to dig deeper to pay a rise in council tax bills.

Town councillors in Horncastle have defended a near 22% increase in their share of Council Tax bills for the coming year, and insisted a smaller rise would have led to potentially damaging cuts.

Owners of an average Band D rated property will face a £12.74 increase to cover the town council budget for the 2019/20 financial year.

The budget is £154,542. Last year it was £129,011.

As a result, the charge for a Band D home will go up from £58.32 to £71.06 - a 21.64% increase.

However, there is more bleak news on the horizon for hard-pressed households.

Increases in county, district and police elements of tax bills could result in a near £100 increase, although details have still to be finalised.

In Horncastle, councillors were offered the alternative of a 15% increase.

That would have involved a budget of £148,792.50 resulting in a payment £67.11 for a Band D property - an 8.79% increase.

Speaking at last week’s town council meeting, Coun Rose Williams proposed that lower figure.

Among a raft of savings, that would have meant:

•No new grass mower and other equipment;

•No awarding of grants/donations;

•No grant of £1,500 to the organisers of the Christmas Market;

•No grant (£500) for floral displays.

Coun Williams defended the lower figure, saying, for example, that the Christmas Market was so successful, organisers might not need a grant.

She also pointed out the council had not spent its full allocation of donations and grants in the last financial year.

However, Coun Matthew Wilkinson said the council could not take on all the extra responsibilities and workload expected of it without the larger increase.

He said: “Some of the cuts we would have to make would be very, very harsh.

“I feel the initial budget should be supported. The money will be spent wisely.”

The vote on the two proposals was split 5-5, although there was some confusion when Coun John Lechler mistakenly voted in favour of both!

In the end, Mayor Coun Brian Burbidge used his casting vote for the bigger increase.

He said he hoped that would mean the council could cover all expenditure this year - and impose a much lower increase in the following 12 months.

Coun Burbidge said: “I am going to take the hard line and stick with the original budget. Hopefully, we will be able to save next year.”

Councillors praised town clerk Amanda Bushell for preparing the budgets.

She told the meeting the lower budget would inevitably lead to savings and cuts which, in turn, could result in an even steeper rise in 12 months’ time.

The town council has already outlined the reasons for the rise in the budget, including a transfer of assets from East Lindsey - and extra staff hours to cope with the increased workload.

Coun Fiona Martin did question the amount charged for business rates (more than £1,000) on the town council office at Stanhope Hall. There was no charge at the previous office in the town library.

She said the council should consider appealing.