Chippenham Town Council's in budget cut threat
Chippenham Town Council’s plans for the financial year 2014/15 have been thrown into uncertainty after it was told by Wiltshire Council its grant could be cut by £185,863.
Welfare reform means councils now only get financial support for homes that are not already receiving housing benefit. But a grant awarded by Wiltshire Council this year to compensate for this loss in funding could be reduced or even removed completely.
Town councils will not find out before a Wiltshire Council cabinet meeting on November 21.
Town council chief executive Sue Wilthew said: “It’s impossible for the town council to budget without knowing how its income is going to be affected.”
She said the worst hit towns would be those where a lot of people claim housing benefit. Chippenham would be affected because of a high deprivation level in wards such as Redland.
Councillor David Powell said: “We have six wards officially listed as deprived. I am aware of several cases in my ward [Hardenhuish] where the bedroom tax has been implemented and people have had to move.”
If the town council loses the entire grant, it would lose 10.76 per cent of its funding, losing the second most of all Wiltshire towns, after Trowbridge, which stands to lose ££197,843.
In a special full town council meeting last Thursday, councillors unanimously refused to suggest ways to reduce their budget, scoffing at Wiltshire Council’s suggestion they might decrease it over the next four years.
Coun Powell said: “Chippen-ham is scheduled to expand rapidly over the next four years. We could be 50,000 [population] within ten years. We need to develop facilities and amenities appropriate to a town of that size. The idea we should actually consider cutting our budget, I find very difficult to swallow.”
Coun Sandie Webb was “offended” by Wiltshire Council’s questionnaire asking its reaction to funding cuts. “Why don’t they put on the end, Would you like a payday loan?” she said.
To make things worse, Government may soon impose a cap on increases to town and parish precepts, the money they raise through council tax.
Mrs Wilthew told the councillors: “If we want to raise it by two per cent we’d need a referendum. It is not binding, but we would be liable for the costs, and for a town of our size the referendum would cost more to run than the increase we would get.”
Coun Melody Thompson said: “Although we don’t approve of a large increase in the precept, if we had no grant we would seek to increase this by as much as the community could cope with.”
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