Town services could cost extra six per cent
Councillors in Newmarket have proposed to raise their council tax precept by six per cent, saying the increase will safeguard the future of public services in the town.
The plans would see a 6.6 per cent increase in Newmarket Town Council’s precept for 2013/14, meaning a Band D property would pay £92.90 for council services - an increase of £5.80 annually or 11p per week.
If agreed, the plan will replace the town council’s current proposed increase of 2.43 per cent.
At a meeting of the town council’s finance and policy committee on Monday, town clerk Isabelle Barrett told councillors the increase was needed to plug a hole in the council’s budget of about £53,000.
She said the gap in council funds had come about after Government changes to the council tax benefits system, which will come into effect from April 1, that had reduced the number of taxable houses in the area.
A report read to councillors at the meeting said Forest Heath District Council had agreed to offer the town council a grant of £53,344.44 to make up the difference for 2013/14, but warned the town council that it could not guarantee it would receive similar grants in the future.
Mrs Barrett said increasing the precept would allow the town council to boost its general reserves and continue to manage its assets in the town - including the Memorial Hall, The Severals sports pavilion and the Memorial Hall public toilets - rather than saving money by cutting public services.
Speaking to the Journal after the meeting, Mrs Barrett said: “If the council is not prepared to raise the precept by six per cent, they have to look at what is the alternative, which would be to cut our services, but that would be to the detriment of our community.
“Residents have already lost a lot of services in the town. We lost our out-of-hours medical service and nearly lost the waste and recycling depot.
“Members have to evaluate whether we cut services and keep the precept at two per cent, or increase it to six per cent and be able to manage our service level.
“It’s a difficult decision for the councillors to make and I am sure they will come to the right decision.”
The new council tax benefits system will see current benefits replaced by Council Tax Support, a discount scheme that hands responsibility for council tax discounts over to local authorities, such as Forest Heath District Council, rather than central Government, and cuts 10 per cent from the budget at the same time.
Members agreed to recommend the increase of 6.6 per cent for town services to councillors at the next full town council meeting, on Monday, for discussion.
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Weather for Newmarket
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 13 C
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