Officers will present a verbal update on this item at the meeting with slides.
It is recommended that the Shadow Town Council:
· Note the update on the Budget and provide any comments.
Paul Fitzgerald (s151 Officer) and Paul McClean (Finance Specialist) introduced the item and went through a slide pack, which aimed to:
- Review the budget to provide context and explanations to the items in the budget
- Review the key data used to determine the Council Tax Base (CTB) and compare the May estimate to the December actual.
- Compare the 2022/23 Parish precepts with the 2023/24 precepts, for those parishes affected by/adjacent to the new boundary.
- Review the 2022/23 forecast implementation costs to budget.
- Outline the impact of the boundary change on Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) at vesting date.
During the discussion of this item, Members made comments and asked questions which included: -
· In relation to Parks, concern was raised around those in the urban extensions and any smaller parks that come with them and if the full impact they would have on the budget of the new town council was understood?
· Officers had established the cost of the services that were operated by the district council and the charter trustees, what does it cost now and what do we estimate those costs to be by year one.
· A query was raised as to whether the budget was set for general routine maintenance of the parks or was there any element for improvement in there?
· The budget is based on the as is situation, any improvements would come out of discretionary funds.
· Concern was raised around the salaries figure feeling very low.
· The staffing budget was for two permanent members of staff and two part time members of staff. Maintenance would be outsourced to the Unitary council at least initially.
· Concern was raised that there were parks left off and the risk of an additional budgetary pressure.
· Officers had used high level estimations with Parish Councils existing budgets as building blocks. New council has obligation up to October to revise its budget, but it could not set a higher rate than that levied but there may be tweaking.
· Members queries whether redundancy payments had been considered?
· No provisions for redundancy were in this budget but these costs would be met if incurred.
· Comment was made that in terms of Council Tax Band D precept was a misnomer, there were a lot of properties that were not band D. Band D equivalent is a measure, but reality is different.
· Officers reiterated that presented this evening was the budget for 23/24, that is the take. It is the amount of money that the Town Council would receive.
· Discussion was raised around the event employee only bringing in an income of £10,000 which was felt conservatively low. Comment was made that hopefully the Town Council could use Vivary Park for events although it will no longer own the park.
· Comment was made that it was felt unnecessary for all elected members to receive brand new IT kit.
· Officers had erred on the side of caution for income budget for events that might be unachievable if set too high.
· It was commended that the budget was set to be realistic but cautious. It was felt that opportunities lay ahead with other assets that may come down the line but this is based on what is being transferred.
· A query was raised in relation to the maintenance costs of different parks and why there was such a disparity and whether the General repairs person would just do works on assets that are owned by the town council and not commissioned by the unitary?
· Officers would look to provide the further detail for the cost of the parks. The Repairs person will only be employed for the Taunton Town council assets.
· A query was raised about whether pay awards had been factored into this budget and it was confirmed that it had not been.
· Concern was raised around the parks not on the list that were the responsibilities of the Parish. List of 11 parks, would still like to know the parks that haven’t been listed. One Park in Staplegrove was not owned by the parish, it was owned by a Charity and there was a need to be able to inform the parish whether they can use it going forward.
· If they are not on the list but owned/responsibility of SWT, they will go to the Somerset Council. We have written to the Parish Councils asking for current assets and as per the Reorg Order, anything the Parish owns or responsible for will transfer into the Taunton Town/Parish Council.
· Comment was made that it seemed odd that the town council inherits the toilets at Vivary Park but not the park.
· Whilst members were focussing on the budget, they shouldn’t lose sight of making Taunton flourish and the economic importance of the events.
· A query was raised that the Implementation budget (£80K) is currently predicting an underspend and whether this would go to the Town Council?
· The potential spend was up to £80k but there was no intention to transfer any remainder over to Taunton Parish.
· A query was raised at whether officers had looked at any other opportunities of generating revenue?
· Income opportunities hadn’t been looked at as of yet. These would be for the new members to determine.
· Comment was made that Councillors had been presented with figures without knowing the ingredients. Concern was raised about inflation proofing, the Events Manager should cover their own costs (be self-funding) and the further need for assets generating an income.
· Members were informed there was Grant funding available. CIL income which the Town Council received could also be used for play park equipment etc.
RESOLVED that the Shadow Town Council:
· Noted the update on the Budget.