Melksham Town Council has voted to raise the council tax precept by two per cent, ending a three-year freeze.

The precept for 2013-14 was set at £291,698. This would mean an annual increase of £1.37, or 11p a month for a typical Band D property, putting Melksham’s share of the tax bill up to £69.79.

Cllr Jon Hubbard proposed the motion, which was approved by eight votes to five. Two councillors were unable to attend the meeting.

He said: “We are in a chastened time, nationally. Last year, we had houses come in to the town providing extra income, which meant we could freeze the rate.

“Melksham Town Council, for the past six years, has been spending beyond its means. The costs of running the council have gone up year after year, but the council tax precept has been frozen. I believe we now need to raise the precepts by two per cent, which will enable us to maintain the levels of service we offer.”

He also proposed a thorough audit of the council’s finances to find future savings.

The rise was opposed by Cllr Richard Wiltshire, who said: “It is incumbent upon every individual and every organisation to use their resources efficiently and hold the cost of their service at the lowest possible level, in order to survive these difficult times.”

Fears were raised that freezing the rate again would force the council to sell the town’s Assembly Hall, which it has run since 2000.

Cllr Adrienne Westbrook, who is standing down in May, said: “We have to do something incredibly small, not now, but because of the situation we will be in soon.

“If you vote for a standstill budget today, you are voting for the Assembly Hall to close in a year’s time. It’s the only way of making the massive cuts you will have to make.”

This was disputed by Cllr Rod Eaton, who said: “We never overspend. We are a well-controlled council and we have got reserves. The Assembly Hall won’t have to close. We don’t borrow money.”

The issue was due to be discussed on January 7, but was postponed after three councillors, including Cllr Wiltshire, failed to return their dispensation forms on time.

* Westbury Town Council is raising council tax by 2.32 per cent after councillors voted unanimously in favour. The precept paid to the town council will rise from April, with the average band D household paying £71.74.