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Bingham Town Council approves increase in council tax but will 'burn' through half of its reserves this year

A council has approved an increase in its annual precept ­— the amount it asks the public to contribute through council tax.

The increase agreed by Bingham Town Council in a last-minute amendment was less than originally proposed — but will reduce its reserves by almost half.

Tony Wallace, a councillor, was applauded by fellow members when he criticised the late changes to the budget, proposed by the chairman of the policy and resource committee, Francis Purdue-Horan.

Bingham Market Place. (42954219)
Bingham Market Place. (42954219)

Mr Wallace said the governing Conservative group had issued the amendments just three hours before the meeting, and the original draft budget had not even been considered.

Mr Purdue-Horan proposed a budget of £318,237 ­— nearly £40,000 less than initially proposed.

That would mean £87.26 for a Band D property, an increase of £4.14 a year and a 4.98% rise.

He said it would fund annual salary increases; a temporary projects support role; the work to implement a five-year biodiversity plan; and Cogley Lane play area improvements.

The councillor training budget would be cut by half to £500 and the council’s quality code budget would be deleted.

Mr Wallace said the policy and resource committee, of which he is a member, had been assured it would have time to consider the budget. However, the committee did not meet and did not have time to before the budget had to be approved.

He said: “I would like to remind the chair Francis Purdue-Horan and vice-chair John Stockwood that policy and resources has a responsibility of effective management and control of financial affairs, assets, resources and personnel of the council, including co-ordination of committee draft budgets and recommendation of town council precepts.

“You would expect the mayor and the chair of policy and resource to work with the town clerk and deputy to produce that budget for consideration in due course.

“But what I’ve seen is no activity whatsoever with the town clerk and deputy. That is not acceptable or a good use of council tax payers’ money.

“We had an opportunity on the recreation and amenities committee on January 19 to consider the budget; community and environment on the 26th and no challenge has been made until now.

“Which Conservative councillors actually saw these amendments?

“I’m disappointed this is the third year this has happened. In some ways, it’s the same old, same old.”

Mr Wallace said the main area of reduced spend was on office employees, but that the council had always recognised a need for more staff members.

He said: “We may have reduced the precept this year, and may have reduced front line expenditure to £318,000, but that’s not what we are spending. We are spending £318,000 from the budget along with £151,000 of the reserves ­— almost 50% of the council reserves.”

Mr Wallace said this meant expenditure would actually total £469,000, as well as another £25,000 proposed to hire a project support role.

“Let’s not making any mistakes here, this council is spending a fortune,” said Mr Wallace.

“You might not see it now because it’s not in the precepts today but you will see it next year and the year after because this council is burning through its reserves like you could not believe.”

Mr Wallace was applauded by committee members.

Councillor John Lewis said: “Although I have had the budget that came with the agenda since January 20, I didn’t receive the draft amendments until 3.59pm (day of meeting), and so I have had zero opportunity to consider them.

“The proposal for the amendment came from the Conservative group of Bingham Town Council and I was wondering when it last met, and whether this is the work of the whole group — or just one person.”

The vote to pass the budget was carried, despite the opposition.

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