Woodley council tax precept frozen despite 'hoarding' criticismBy Jon Nurse
February 22, 2013
A cap on the town council precept has been agreed for a fourth consecutive year, despite criticism it could be lowered were it not for ‘hoarding’.
Woodley Town Council’s ruling Liberal Democrats voted to freeze its precept at a full council meeting last Tuesday.
The outcome was hailed an ‘incredible result’ by deputy leader Councillor Phil Challis, but his enthusiasm was not shared by the town’s Conservatives who claim their alternative budget would produce a 15 per cent cut in council tax.
Cllr Challis said: “Other Conservative-led town and parish councils in Wokingham borough have increased household precepts by up to 2.7 per cent and so Lib Dems are proud that the prudent financial management at Woodley Town Council has once more meant no increase in our precept for our residents.”
Twelve councillors voted to approve the precept but eight abstained.
Tory Cllr Keith Baker said: “I’m very disappointed that you didn’t take the opportunity to reduce the precept.
“The reserves are growing at an alarming rate of £40,000 to £50,000 over the last three years. That’s equivalent to £3 or £4 off council tax.
“I can’t see any reason why we are hoarding such high reserves rather than putting it back into our residents’ pockets.”
The council’s reserves, which came to £242,000 at the end of 2012, are projected to rise to £317,000 by March 2014.
Cllr Challis disregarded the accusation of hoarding, pointing instead to ways the reserves could be used in the near future.
“I think we should be looking for something sensible to do with our reserves and we have a number of projects people are aware of,” he added.
An alternative budget proposed by Woodley Conservatives claims to cut council tax by 15 per cent (£17 per household) by reducing staffing levels, reducing the expenses allocation, cutting losses at leisure centres and returning £100,000 of ‘excessive’ reserves back to residents.
A Woodley Conservatives statement reads: “This alternative budget reflects the real world that every single household in Woodley has to live in.
“With the extreme economic pressures that residents have been, and continue to be, experiencing, no council can simply ignore this.
“Unless you are this Liberal Democrat council who simply treat their residents as a never ending source of money.”