Councillors stick with 10% rise in precept as bid to limit it rejected

Published on: 25 Feb 2016

A move to limit Filton’s council tax precept rise to 5% has been rejected by councillors.
Last month it was revealed that the precept - the part of council tax which funds town council services -was likely to be raised by nearly 10%.
Further work has revealed that the increase needs to be 10.6% in order to fund services and begin the process of building up reserves.
At last month’s town council meeting, Cllr Alan Tink said a rise on this scale was simply too much in light of previous increases in the past two years of 4.8% and 4.6%.
An increase of 10.6% represents an extra £20 per year for the average household.
Councillors opposing Cllr Tink’s proposal said it would be financially irresponsible not to rebuild reserves, which had dropped in recent years as the council battled rising staff costs and reduced income from the swimming pool.
In a stormy public questions earlier, resident Dave Mikkelson criticised the previous council for failing to spot that the authority was facing financial problems.
He said: “Two years ago the council had £180,000 in reserves which was frittered away by inept financial management.
“When the matter was brought up the public was assured it was under control but then in December 2014 the penny dropped that it had become a struggle to pay wages.
“As a consequence reserves have dropped and the pool has been haemorrhaging money.
“How many people use the leisure centre. People are struggling with their budgets and we already pay £200 more than other parishes for council tax, the highest in the region.
“Something dynamic needs to be done with the leisure centre. it looks like an old warehouse.”
Cllr Stan Sims said: “Filton is tiny but it took it upon itself to build a pool.
“Mr Mikkelson should stand for the council.”
Chair of Finance Ian Scott said: “We are the only parish council running a pool. We could vote to close it down but I have no intention of doing that unless it becomes affordable.
“It would be financially irresponsible not to build up the reserves again.”
Cllr Keith Briffett said he would vote for the 10.6% increase but added that we can’t keep doing this every year and that he “feared for the pool”.
Cllrs John Tucker, Maria Silveira and Anne Kenyon joined Cllr Tink in pressing for the 5% increase but they were outvoted by Cllrs Ben Scott, Jo Ward, Brian Mead, Ian Scott and Keith Briffett.
In a statement, Cllr Ian Scott told Filtonvoice: “I agree with the accountant that following the Tory government cut in council tax support grant  this would mean Filton Town Council, just to stand still, needs to raise extra money.   
“We also need to increase the reserves to a sensible level.  The £20 increase over the year works out at less than a 50p per week increase.  
“Filton Town Council Tax is higher than other councils because we run our own swimming pool.
“South Gloucestershire Council will not pay for the swimming pool and the danger is, that we will end up like Patchway with no swimming pool.
“I do not believe most Filton residents will want to lose the swimming pool.”
In a subsequent debate on the Filton Festival, which is returning this summer on July 17, Cllr Anne Kenyon voted against the festival, saying the council could not afford it.

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