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Published: January 26, 2021

Council tax increase, savings spent, services cut - Budget Report from Melksham Town Council

Following a decision of the Town Council, Melksham residents are set to lose out on some of the promised improvements to town facilities next year, as Councillors have elected to redirect money from earmarked reserves to prop up their budget.

At their meeting on Monday evening (25th January) the council voted to take £125,000 out of its savings for town improvement and use that to cover the ever increasing costs of running the council.

The council rejected a proposal from Independent councillor Jon Hubbard who suggested that by combining two of the council’s staff teams, the Council could find savings of £100,000.

During the meeting Cllr Hubbard told the council, “We have to be honest with ourselves and our residents about the situation that this council is in. We are today looking to set a budget that commits this council to spending over £1 million and we don’t have the income to cover it. 

Like many businesses in these difficult times, the Council is struggling to balance the books.  “There are savings to be found and we need to look at our Amenities Team and Assembly Hall Team and make sure we are using our resources as effectively as possible.”

Huge Losses at Assembly Hall

“The Assembly Hall is a fantastic resource for our town, no one wants to close it, and we don’t need to. But we can use it more effectively and economically.  In 2019/20, before Coronavirus hit, the Assembly Hall made a loss of £97,537. To put that another way, every single event that took place in the Assembly Hall that year, be it a major film show, a live event or usage by a community group cost Melksham taxpayers £383 a time.

“We can’t sustain those losses and need to look to find a more economic way of making the best use of this fantastic resource.”

Cllr Hubbard proposed that the council merged the Amenities Team and Facilities Team (the two teams that run the Assembly Hall, other council properties and undertake the outdoors work across the town like street cleaning and grass cutting) and look to find £100,000 savings during the year. Describing the proposal Cllr Hubbard sadly accepted that this would result in less people working for the council, but recognised that the current situation couldn’t continue.

“It is true that this proposal will mean less people working for the Town Council, however, this does not have to mean compulsory redundancies.  We have a responsibility to address the issue that currently the Town Council is paying £627,000 a year in salaries, that is £6 in every £10 that the council spends, when a greater percentage should be earmarked for the town and its community.

Play Area Improvements Scrapped

The council voted to reject Cllr Hubbard’s proposal instead using £125,000 from its reserves to plug the gap in the budget. As a result the new Play Area’s at Primrose Drive, Dorset Crescent and Riverside Drive will now be scrapped together with a cut in spending on public toilets, cultural projects in the town, funding for the new Shurnhold Fields facility and a wealth of salami sliced cuts on other projects.

Speaking after the meeting Cllr Hubbard commented, “What is really ironic is having spent the public meeting telling me how awful it was for me to propose making staff cuts and amalgamate these two teams, as soon as the meeting when into private session [without the press and public as onlookers] Councillors then voted to set up a new working group to investigate how to make savings from merging the Amenities and Assembly Hall Teams.

“Had the council agreed to my proposal last night we could have kept the Town Council’s share of the council tax bill paid by residents at the same level as last year, and still delivered the new play areas across our community and not had to cut or scrap other projects. 

“Instead, our residents will have to pay extra tax, whilst seeing services and facilities cut”

You can always get in touch with Cllr Jon Hubbard

Phone
01225 807969
jon@Jonhubbard.org
Facebook
/jon4melkshamsouth
Twitter
@cllrjonhubbard
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