The proportion of your council tax that funds Shaftesbury Town Council, won’t increase from April. But the overall bill for 2020-2021 is likely to rise by around 4%. Dorset Council, Dorset Police and the Fire Service need more of our money.
Shaftesbury Town Council will receive just over £505,000 from council tax receipts to operate its services during the year. That’s approximately £4,000 more than last year, because a handful of new properties have been built and those homeowners are now paying council tax.
If you have a Band D equivalent property, the Town Council’s work will cost you £156 for the year. “The portion of your council tax for Shaftesbury Town Council will be remaining at the same level as last year,” explained deputy mayor, Cllr Piers Brown. “There is no change in the level of that. But we are going to be investing in both maintaining the fantastic services that we offer and also with a lot of community projects in the town.”
The Town Council’s responsibilities are relatively limited. It maintains parks, open spaces, play areas and recreational facilities, including the Oasis Pool. Shaftesbury Town Council also looks after allotments and cemeteries, litter bins, the Bell Street toilets, bus shelters, street markets and the Town Hall building.
Piers says some of next year’s budget will go towards a new play area in St James’ Park. “There’s going to be £25,000 for play equipment to improve our public parks. We put £20,000 aside to invest in our street markets, so we can make the High Street more vibrant, sustainable and more interesting. And we’ve put £15,000 aside for community infrastructure on The Maltings estate,” he said.
During the Full Council meeting, Cllr Brown’s request to rename the ‘feasibility of community hall’ budget to ‘community infrastructure for The Maltings estate’ budget was backed by fellow councillors. The sum of cash set aside for this project has been boosted by £5,000.
“We have repurposed some of the pots that we have been building up over the years for projects which are no longer the council’s priority. We have new priorities. We are focusing on what we believe is the best value for money and the best social value for the people of Shaftesbury,” said Piers.
He added that locals will determine what ‘community infrastructure for The Maltings estate’ actually means. “We will be starting a consultation very shortly to get the people of The Maltings estate to tell us what they want to do with their money. We, as a group of councillors, have acknowledged that this part of town has been underinvested in. This is mainly due to the developer, but it is our job to make sure that we are serving all of our residents equally. We want the people of The Maltings to tell us what they would like.”
Piers says Shaftesbury Town Council recognises that the eastern development needs investment. “It is the start of a commitment. £15,000 sounds like a lot but on an estate of that size it will disappear very quickly. We also have to balance our cash flow,” he said.
The Town Council receives around 8% of your council tax payment. Dorset Council gets the lion’s share. They oversee the majority of council services, including highways, economic development, adult social care, refuse and waste, environmental health, education and planning. The Dorchester-based authority is proposing to increase your overall council tax bill by just under 4%. It’s the biggest annual increase allowed without calling a referendum.
Dorset Council says they need to fund the rising cost of adult social care and children’s services. Their councillors will vote on whether to approve this increase at their meeting next Tuesday evening, the 18th February. They argue that central government grants to councils have been cut by nearly 60% and Dorset does not receive as much money from retained business rates from shops, offices, hotels and factories as some local authorities.
Dorset Council say they intend making further savings by reducing the property and land the council owns, cutting travel and transport costs and becoming more efficient.
Back here in Shaftesbury, the Town Council also agreed to increase the allowance that councillors receive by 4%. It follows a recommendation from The Dorset Parish Independent Remuneration Panel. Town councillors will now get £520 a year. “We don’t get paid. We get an allowance to cover our costs,” said Piers. “I know several councillors have already indicated that they intend to give their money to local good causes.”
Some councillors might be able to afford to do that, but Piers accepts that people may be dissuaded from standing for election if they felt that they had to fund their printing and telephone costs. “That is a decision for each councillor. Some people may not be able to afford the cost of being a councillor and that’s why that allowance exists. Any elected body is made stronger by its diversity. Whatever barriers we can remove to help people get involved in local politics, can only be a good thing,” said Piers.
The allowance for Chairman of the Town Council, currently Tim Cook, rises to £1,040 per annum. Cllr Cook abstained in the vote. Cllrs Chase and Lewer opposed the increase in allowances.