The Town Council’s budget and Council Tax precept for 2018/19 was approved at its full Council meeting on Tuesday 23 January.
The members discussed the challenges facing the Council and the town from local government reorganisation and the general financial difficulties facing local government as a whole.
The Council was concerned that once again it was having to find over £13,000 in its budget to meet the cost of the loss of the Council Tax Support Grant. In total, over 5 years, the Town Council has had a reduction of £58,237 in this funding.
The Town Council is also currently in discussion with West Dorset District Council regarding the future of discretionary services following local government reorganisation. This includes the management of public toilets and the District Council’s grants funding which support key local organisations, such as the arts centre and museum. These services may not be funded by the District Council after local government reorganisation, which is likely to take place in 2019 if a new unitary council for Dorset is confirmed by the Government.
Councillors spoke about the need to protect local services that were so important to the town and its surrounding area. Whilst the Town Council was seeking to reach agreement with the District Council for income generating assets to be transferred to the Town Council to help meet some of the ongoing costs of these services, there was still a need to make provision in its budget for these and other town services. In addition, the proposed budget would enable the Town Council to help fund a new community bus service planned for 2018/19, continue its own grant support for the Youth and Community Centre, arts centre, museum, Citizens Advice Bureau and the leisure centre, maintain the Tourist Information Centre and deliver projects such as play area improvements and support for town events. This is all in addition to providing its existing wide range of local services – allotments, the cemetery, play areas, management of the market etc. managing most of the open spaces in the town and undertaking verge cutting on behalf of the County Council.
A Town Council spokesperson stated “the Council has to ensure, as changes are made to the higher tiers of local government and the likelihood of a new unitary council in Dorset, that local services that are so important to the health and vitality of Bridport are retained and supported. The Town Council has shown its willingness in the past to protect services that were at risk through its support for the Youth and Community Centre and the management of the Tourist Information Centre and it wants to ensure that, working with local community groups, it does as much as it can to protect services in the future. It does have other sources of income such as fees and charges for its services including the management of the market but its main source of income remains its part of the Council Tax. The budget agreed by the Council will mean that its part of the Band D Council tax will increase from 1 April 2018 by £12.21 a year, 23p a week although it will be less than this for most properties in Bridport.“