Henley Town Council’s Finance, Strategy and Management Committee have proposed a new budget for 2018-2019 which includes a rise of 7% in HTC’s Council Tax precept. This is the first rise since 2014. The Chair, Councillor Jane Smewing explained at the meeting that the budget presented showed a deficit of £67.7k. She had reviewed the items to see how this figure could be reduced. The suggestions were as follows:
- Raise the Henley Council Tax precept by 7% rather than 5% (+£9.8k)
- Include the revised income predicted by the Investment Managers to £165k (+£5k)
- Continue to charge for small Christmas trees (+£7k)
- Omit Wotton Manor car park set-up costs (+£7k) and income (-£1k). This could be reviewed again at a later stage when the Makower development had been completed.
- Continue downstairs King’s Arms Barn rental (+£6k)
- Continue some 357 Reading Road income (+£2k)
- Use Community Infrastructure Levy For New Car club (+£6k)
- Inflation increase for Mayors allowance (-£0.2)
However, other late adjustments should include loss of SOOC contribution to Town Manager salary costs (-£11k) and reduction in HTC contribution to Town Improvements/Action Plan from £20k to £16k (+£4k) – SOOC to continue to contribute £4k so total Action Plan expenditure budget is down from £24k to £20k.
It was also suggested that the Wootton Manor/Mill Lane/Mill Meadows car parks should not be resurfaced at this time but patched as necessary. This would mean that the Planned Maintenance budget could remain at £40k.
The suggested alterations above would reduce the deficit to £32.9k.
The Town Clerk, Janet Wheeler pointed out that ideally it was always prudent to set a balanced budget and the Council should be working towards this over the next few years. However, with the council tax not being raised for the last four years has meant the council losing c£62k over the period due to inflation. In addition, it has taken on, and supported, a number of services previously funded by SOOC.
Councillor Ken Arlett said, “The proposed 7% council tax rise from £87.00 to £93.09 for Band 0 still compared very favourably with places such as Thame and Wallingford. In essence, the proposed increase meant an additional 12p/week for every Band 0 household.”
There was a lengthy discussion concerning the council tax rise. A Member asked whether it could be mitigated by further increasing revenue (or even considering purchasing assets that were revenue producing). However, the proposal was made to support the suggestions made from the Chair. A recorded vote was requested and voted through by 6 votes to 3 (Councillors Hamilton, Abey and Brookes)
The budget will be ratified at the Full Council on 21 November.