Filton Council to increase tax
Despite South Glos freezing its tax, Filton council is to increase the council precept of 1.5%
next year, after councillors agreed to accept their accountants'
recommendations. The council tax for Filton will now rise to £558,000 in total,
which equates to around £177 per household.
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The accountant, from DCK Beavers, told the council the need
for the increase was based on several factors.
Main impacts sited were £10,000 in lost market revenue which
never materialised, a budgeted a loss of £2,350 for the Ratepayers pub which is
in fact at £23,000 six months into their financial year. The accountant stated
pubs in general are suffering horrendously, due to the economic downturn. The
Ratepayers pub is the only council run pub in the country.
The council's accountant told finance committee members that
it needed to look at the whole picture and the Ratepayers pub income was only
part of the whole facility, but he could not provide any data on how many users
of the leisure centre used the Ratepayers pub and it was estimation.
He said it was difficult to "quantify the figures" relating
to the effect on people using the Ratepayers pub generally.
He went on to say, people shouldn't look at the losses as
losses and that the tax paying public were in effect subsidising the facilities
through their council tax in order to maintain them.
During the summer, Filton council carried out its first ever
stab at a cost saving exercise which according to the figures could save around
6% of funds. When questioned why the accountant had told the council months ago
there was no money to be saved, he simply replied he had been wrong. The
council are yet to publish a breakdown of the savings.
A question was raised regarding what was likely to happen in
sustaining the leisure centre and Ratepayers arms in terms of future funding,
the accountant said the council needed a business plan for at least the next
five years which would need to look at its capital expenditure. The council
currently have no such plan in place, an issue for which it was heavily
criticised in a report produced by the Audit Commission last year. They are
looking to produce such a plan in the near future.
He said for a Council operating at a level of around a
million pounds per year, it needs around £50,000 extra per year to maintain its
operation and this would obviously need to be met by the Filton taxpayer.
Earlier this year, the council completed a £100,000 new
office extension for council staff, of which taxpayers stumped up around
£50,000. The other half was reimbursed to the council for vacating a room it
used at Filton library. It was confirmed that this had been included in the
A concern raised was that budget decisions being made were
not based on any Filton user data for the facilities and it was guesstimates; however
the accountant felt that the council could spend a lot of money on information
gathering, without results. He also said that despite the economic downturn the
facilities would see an increase in their usage, but had not made any direct
comparison with other councils they work with or commercial information.
When asked how he would advise the Council to improve the
income for the leisure centre he replied
"I am not a leisure centre expert and I wouldn't even be trying to do
that in all honesty and you need far more expertise than I've got to find out
the way to go"
Council staff salary increases of 1% have also been approved
as part of the recommendations from the budget setting exercise, rather than any
freeze. The annual staff Xmas party has also been funded at a cost of £500.
The accountant pointed out that whilst other leisure centre
facilities in South Glos are subsidised through the South Glos council tax,
Filton leisure centre costs and staffing costs are funded entirely by Filton
residents only. He said there was a
provision for parish councils called a "concurrent function grant" which is a
provision in legislation whereby district councils can, at their discretion,
compensate parish councils for running costs if they so wish. He said although
he had discussed this with councillors in the past, it may be worth pursuing
again. Filton South Glos councillors who were in attendance at the meeting, Adam
Monk and Roger Hutchinson, said they were happy to pursue this on behalf of
residents. Councillor Roger Hutchinson said that he had tried in previous years
to seek special expenses for Filton Council from South Glos, without success.
The company DCK beavers limited, received £600 for carrying
out the budget setting work for Filton council.