Helston town council budget cut, but effects unclear
3:04pm Thursday 24th January 2013 in Helston
Helston Town Council has reduced its estimated budget for the coming year by £12,700, but the effect on taxpayers is still not clear.
While a drop in the precept is usually good news for hard pressed residents, changes by the government are confusing the issue.
Cornwall Council has been told that the council tax base must come down – the effect being that households would have to pay more.
However, to offset the effect this would have, this year the government has given Cornwall Council a “council tax support grant” to distribute between town and parish councils – which means Helston gets £28,000 to take off its precept.
As a result, Helston Town Council is asking for £212,240 for the 2013/2014 financial year.
Yet the actual council tax bill can still not be calculated, until Cornwall Council makes a decision on its council tax relief scheme.
This was due to happen last week, but the council has still yet to do so. Until then, taxpayers – and local councils – remain in limbo, although it is predicted that the effect will only be a matter of pounds either way.
Helston Town Council’s budget was discussed at length by members last Thursday, having already been debated by the policy, finance and resources committee.
Councillor Keith Reynolds wanted to see the £2,000 budgeted for the town plan taken out, saying the council had talked about it for four years and he did not support more money being spent.
Supported by Councillor Mike Thomas, the remainder of the councillors disagreed and the allocation stayed, with Councillor Sue Swift saying it would “send the wrong message” that the council did not have a plan at all.
Mr Reynolds’s second proposal, to increase the staffing budget by £9,000 in order to extend the hours of the administrative assistant post to full-time, was supported, however, in a majority vote.
He said: “We are increasingly being asked to take on more and more work that effectively Cornwall Council is devolving to us. It’s putting increasing work on the office.”
The most lengthy discussion related to £2,400 set aside for “human resources and health and safety services” – effectively producing risk assessments, health and safety policies and follow-up support.
Councillor Niall Devenish said assessments produced by large companies were “broad ranging and generic” and would open up the council to potential problems further down the line.
However, Mr Reynolds described it as “quite a cheap insurance policy” in his eyes that would take “tremendous work” off town clerk Chris Dawson and the allocation was left in.
Mr Thomas’s proposal to increase the civic hospitality budget from £500 to £1,000 failed.