Last week Hebden Royd Town Council agreed the budget for 2010/11, which is almost entirely funded by council tax payers in our area. The budget agreed is a total of £277,100, up from £255,600 in 2009/10. Taking into account our bank balance at the end of the financial year, and the grant of £8,941 from Calderdale MBC, the cost to a council tax payer in a band D property is estimated to be £58.64 over the whole year, a 0.7% increase on last year.
All the Lib Dem councillors supported this budget, and I personally am extremely happy with the final figures that were put together. Many Labour councillors also supported it, although a few – predictably – wanted a larger raise. Neither of the independent councillors were present at the meeting.
I have campaigned in the past for low council tax increases, and keeping the increase to less than 1% without any cuts is a great achievement. The country is only just emerging from the recession, and many people are struggling to pay bills, so a raise of much more than this would be hard to justify.
So what do the council tax payers of Hebden Royd get for their hard earned cash?
The biggest spend outside of staff salaries is the £60,000 allocation for grants for community groups, a £5,000 increase from last year. These grants are extremely popular and enable many groups in the area to complete small projects. £25,000 has been allocated for environmental projects, and £10,000 for Christmas lights – although a large chunk of this will be taken up simply storing and putting up/taking down the lights we already have. £10,500 will go towards celebrations of the 500th Anniversary of Hebden Bridge this year, and £3,000 for the associated twinning events, as residents of both Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise (France) and Warstein (Germany) are visiting over the course of the year. The £30,000 we already have allocated for resurfacing the unadopted Central Street will remain, although we are struggling to get the help required from Calderdale MBC to see this one through. To balance the spend across the council area, £9,500 has been allocated for Mytholmroyd Memorial Gardens.
Finally – and as chair of the committee in question I am particularly pleased – we have increased the allotments budget to £7,500, in order to support three prospective projects across Mytholmroyd and Hebden Bridge which will hopefully be coming to fruition in 2010 and 2011. There is a real desire for new allotments in the area, not least because the majority of our houses don’t have gardens, and I’m hopeful that we will finally manage to get some more plots available. Allotments are one of the few things for which Town and Parish Councils are actually responsible. The lack of them is something we can’t blame on Calderdale MBC!
In the past, the budget has been decided at a somewhat acrimonious meeting of full council. This year, each committee made a recommendation for their own budget, and the Strategy & Review committee pulled together all of the recommendations, made a few tweaks, and produced a recommended budget for full council to approve. This worked extremely well, and enabled both Lib Dem and Labour councillors to have their say. However, the debate approving the budget at full council was rather short. I personally would have liked a longer debate with perhaps the chair of each committee outlining their plans rather than just waving through the recommendations. It worked out well in the end, though.
One final note – again this year, no one from the local media turned up to the budget meeting. Perhaps the discussion on how to spend over a quarter of a million pounds of tax payers money wasn’t of any interest to them?