HOLBEACH PARISH COUNCIL: Precept rise of nearly £10,000 blamed on pension regulation changes and increases in the National Living Wage
Rising staff costs and pension law changes have been blamed for a forthcoming rise in Holbeach’s council tax share of nearly £10,000.
Holbeach Parish Council has set a precept for 2019-20 of £207,770, a rise of about five per cent compared with the 2018-19 figure of £197,899.
The increase represents an extra £2.80 on the annual average band D council tax, up from £61.84 to £64.64.
Coun Paul Brighton, finance committee chairman, said: “We always review things halfway through the year, just to see how we’re doing and whether we can spend money or have to cut back more.
“The council only has one chance to fix the budget for the whole year so we have to take things steady throughout the year.
“This year, we’ve had to delay quite a few bits of expenditure and cut back on several items.
“Considering the increases in wage and pension costs, the five per cent precept increase is reasonable and, having held it down for the last couple of years, we feel that the council is being fair to parishioners.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to revisit some items of expenditure later in the year.”
As well as the precept rise, councillors agreed to look at other funding options to protect services it is legally bound to provide, including allotments, cemeteries, parks and playing fields.
Coun Paul Foyster, parish council chairman, said: “The current times of uncertainty are tough on all of us, in particular those with a low income.
“Therefore, it is vital that the parish council continues its work in providing services for local people.
“The council has been through a real period of change to help get its practices up to date and ready for the future, as well as a number of unexpected challenges.
“The last two years saw little or no increase in the precept for residents.
“But as laws change and costs rise, making the most of what we have is really important.
“When the budget proposals first came to the table, the proposed precept increase was closer to 18 per cent.
“But we kept in mind the effects of austerity and whittled it down to five per cent, in real terms less than the price of a cup of coffee spread over a year for a band D property.”
In an effort to keep spending under control, councillors will be given an update of costs every two months.
Former parish council chairman Coun Isobel Hutchinson said: "After the elections in May, we are likely to have new members and, therefore, new committee chairmen.
"Some of them will not have done the role before so a bimonthly update on spending will make it easier for them to keep an eye on the budget for their department.
"Also, we have a duty to our parishioners to spend their money wisely so by reviewing the budget regularly, we can see if we are within our spending limits and make any adjustments accordingly.
"We can also see if any savings have been made and use these to help fund further improvements within the parish."