Town Council budget - 'Large and frightening figures', but precept could be REDUCED

December 22 2021
Town Council budget - 'Large and frightening figures', but precept could be REDUCED

Accountant says precept could be REDUCED as Filton Town Council prepares to outsource leisure centre to Active Nation and outlines healthier financial position for authority

'The most challenging budget in 25 years of working with parish councils, involving large and frightening figures.'
That is how Filton Town Council's accountant Derek Kemp described the 2022 budget as he outlined the options faced by councillors setting the parish precept (the part of council tax paying for the town council).
The town council, having faced several challenging years financing the loss-making pool, is now outsourcing responsibility for running the sports centre to leisure provider Active Nation.
Funding for a wholesale revamp of the Elm Park facility is coming from a £4.45 million loan, taken out by the council.
Once Active Nation are up and running, revenue will be returned to the council to service the loan.
This means that a combination of lower wage bills during the pandemic, a building up of council reserves and the outsourcing of the facility to Active Nation means councillors could offer residents a REDUCED precept in 2022/23 - after years of increases, including a 35% increase in 2020 then a 0.95% increase last year.
Mr Kemp told councillors that his favoured strategy was to continue to build reserves as a contingency fund to pay the loan 'if something went wrong' with the Active Nation arrangement.
The council will be repaying £220,000 per year for the loan.
Mr Kemp said a prudent strategy would be to freeze the precept at the current rate which would help build a contingency fund of around £0.5 million.
He said this could lead to savings of £400k which ultimately could be used for new projects or be 'returned' to the taxpayers in the form of a precept reduction in future years.
He said: "This was the most challenging budget in 25 years working with parish and town councils, due to the massive changes in the council's financial position and future arrangements.
"The council has borrowed £4.45 million to finance the future of the pool and leisure centre.
"Assuming the partnership is successful, the picture will be different in future years.
"But I have to take a jaundiced view of the possibilities of the future. What happens if something goes wrong? There would be massive financial consequences.
"Because of the Doomsday scenario, we need to have certain safeguards and we need to set funds aside, and I am suggesting £0.5 million over two years."
Mr Kemp said that in the event of problems in the future, the council would still own the (newly refurbished) facility and could run it itself but the loan would still need to be repaid.
Councillor Andy Robinson said he would back a £65/year reduction in the precept, describing it as an 'excellent opportunity after the pandemic to reduce the precept'.
Cllr Adam Monk said he favoured a smaller reduction of £30 but noted that the overall council tax bill - standing at around £220/month for Band D households - would still rise due to likely increases in the South Glos, fire service and police elements of the tax.