Thame Town Council Budget 2018-19 – Draft – for additional public discussion – on 12 December 2017

In preparing its budget for 2018-19, Thame Town Council has again looked hard at where it can make savings (both in terms of cuts and further efficiencies), while at the same time providing the projects, functions and services that the community of Thame expect to be delivered.

While always publicising the budgeting process, this year, the Town Council is going one step further in its transparency and community involvement, by hosting a drop-in session at the Town Hall from 5:30pm till 8pm on the evening of Tuesday 12 December 2017. This will provide an opportunity for any resident of Thame to discuss the draft budget in detail with the Town Clerk and members of the Budget Working Group. There is potential then for the Budget Working Group to refine the budget still further, in response to feedback from the community of Thame.

Initial discussions of the Budget Working Group have led to a first draft budget being prepared, that keeps most of the new projects from last year (i.e. contributions to the Thame Town Music Festival – assuming it goes ahead again, Cuttle Brook flood prevention measures, the Thame and District Day Centre and the Red Kite Family Centre), while also providing funding for a larger than usual Remembrance Event, given the special 100 year anniversary in 2018. A smaller additional fund has also been allocated to help celebrate 10 years of the Thame Town Awards.

The Town Council is also proposing to provide funding towards a Youth Worker given the much publicised issues that have raised concerns in town throughout the year.
The largest additional cost by far though is the need for a revised Neighbourhood Plan. This is because the District Council’s Local Plan is changing above us – and we need to ensure that the appropriate infrastructure is put in place to support both the new housing defined by the existing Neighbourhood Plan while also catering for any new housing that a new Local Plan may demand. We need to commit to the best possible consultancy support, so that we again produce a widely respected and efficient Neighbourhood Plan. Some of that extra cost will for this year only be supported by pulling down on some of the Council’s reserves, which is in line with a request from central Government.

The Town Council has also recently been informed that funding from the District Council towards the Market Town Co-Ordinator staff costs is likely to stop. We will cover next year’s costs from reserves, but the budget will need to increase the following year, to maintain that valuable post, which is doing so much to support the vibrancy of the town.

The Town Council is also planning to increase the size of its Grounds Team from 3 to 4 staff, so that we are in a better position to react to the increasing maintenance needs of the town, while the District and County Councils continue to reduce resources, or even completely abdicate responsibility, for maintaining our town to the level that residents and visitors expect. This is also in response to an appeal from central Government that Town and Parish Councils should this year “spend to save”.

Other staffing costs are also budgeted to increase. The employer’s pension contribution has changed this year and the relaxing of the public sector pay cap may mean an increase in salaries of more than 1%, subject to further negotiations by the National Joint Council, the outcome of which the Town Council is legally obliged to abide by.
Various savings have been identified with the main one being no necessity to set aside public transport funds this year. That need should be covered by existing s106 funds held by the County Council.

Numerous other minor adjustments, both up and down, have been made to reflect realistic cost / revenue expectations for the coming year.

For the third year running, the Town Council will also primarily call on its Capital Reserves for capital projects, rather than funding through the precept, though some allowance has been made this year for grounds equipment renewal.

Given the new houses being built in Thame, the tax base has increased, which helps to keep the overall tax burden down, as it is shared wider. However, the net impact of all the above change is that for the financial year 2018-19 the full precept increase in the current draft budget is proposed to be 3.5%, which equates to an extra £5.09p per annum or around 10p per week (for the average Band D household). This is the lowest increase for the last three years.

In 2018-19, if there is no further change to the current draft budget, the average whole household (i.e. Band D) will contribute £2.90 per week (through the precept portion of Council Tax) towards the funding of all the projects, functions and services that Thame Town Council provides for the community.

If anyone has any comments on whether £2.90 (or a different amount?) is a reasonable amount, or suggestions on where we should spend more, or less, or the same, we would be pleased to hear. You can come along to the drop-in as mentioned above, or simply get in touch with the Town Council at the Town Hall by phone, e-mail or post (or by dropping in in normal working hours). We always welcome suggestions from residents on ways that we can improve our budgeting still further.

The Town Council receives no contribution from the Business Rates – those funds all go to Central Government, and then to County and District Councils. The Town Council will continue its campaign for a small direct share of the Business Rates so that the tax burden does not fall so much on the residents of Thame.

A detailed 37 page draft budget report – showing the proposed budget for 2018-19, in comparison to this year and last year is available to download here.

Thame Town Council is committed to continuing to deliver the projects, functions and services that residents, workers, and visitors to the town expect, at a price that the residents are prepared to pay, and we thank everyone for their ongoing support in that work.

Date posted: Monday 20 November 2017.