01 Feb Wellington Town Council Budget 2024/25
Wellington Town Council voted last night to take responsibility for a range of assets and services currently delivered by Somerset Council which it will either be ceasing to provide or is charging to carry on providing from 1 April 2024 as a result of the financial difficulties it is facing.
It also agreed that in the longer term it will take on the management of all the green spaces in the town, including Wellington Park, The Playing Fields and Recreation Ground and the seventeen Somerset Council owned play areas from 1 April 2025.
Prior to the meeting, the Council held a public forum to explain what it was considering and why and to give people the chance to express their views. This forum was attended by 27 members of the community as well as 9 Town Councillors. In addition, there were 162 responses to the survey the Council sent out last week and we will be publishing that feedback shortly.
On opening the meeting, Dave Farrow, Town Clerk, said that it was probably the most important, and challenging, meeting in the 50 year history of the Town Council as the decisions made would set the direction of travel for the Town Council for the foreseeable future. The challenge was that in doing so there would potentially be a significant cost for the community as there was no funding being transferred to support the Council in taking on these responsibilities.
Despite being the sixth largest town in Somerset, in 2023/4 the town’s Precept of £466,332 (the budget it raises through the Council Tax) was ranked at just 15th in Somerset. Its Band D amount (seen as the average per household) of £84.65 per annum was ranked 51st in the County. The growth required to take on additional responsibilities and cost is therefore starting from a very low base.
To enable it to take on the additional responsibilities and the associated costs, the Town Council agreed to increase its Annual Precept to £945,392 which takes the amount paid by a household in Band D to £166.29 pa, or £3.19 per week, up from £84.65 pa and £1.62 per week in this current year. Seventy Five percent of the town’s houses are in Bands A-C which pay proportionally less than the Band D amount as set out in the table below:
|Council Tax Band
|Proportion of houses (%)
|23/24 £ per annum
|23/24 £ per week
|24/25 £ per annum
|24/25 £ per week
Mayor Marcus Barr said, ‘We thought long and hard about what we should do. On the one hand we were very conscious of the financial pressure that would be placed on the community by taking on what Somerset Council was saying it was going to stop delivering or would start charging us for, but on the other felt that there really was no alternative if we want the town to continue to thrive and be the great place to live and work that it is. We looked at all aspects of our budget to try to minimise the impact of the increases.
This situation, whilst challenging, does provide us with the opportunity to do things differently and better for the benefit of the town and we will be spending the next year reviewing what we have taken on and looking at how we can best manage the green spaces that are going to come our way in April 2025. By taking ownership of these facilities and services both now and next year we can be more responsive and do things that we want to do rather than having to take our turn alongside other town and parish councils in the county.
We are not alone in facing these challenges – we know that other town councils have also had to increase their Precept to take on areas of responsibility that Somerset Council will no longer be delivering with Taunton increasing theirs by 172.9% and Bridgwater by 163.5%.’
The facilities and services that the Town Council will be taking responsibility for or funding in 2024/5 are:
- The public toilets in North Street Car Park and Wellington Park
- The provision of bedding plants and security for Wellington Park
- The provision, planting and maintenance of hanging baskets and planters in the town centre
- Repair of play equipment
- Provision of CCTV
- Minor highways maintenance functions such as verge maintenance, highways surface water drainage maintenance, weed removal, sign cleaning and cutting back vegetation and bus shelter cleaning and maintenance.
- Funding the subsidy for the school crossing patrol at St Johns Primary School.
It also agreed that in 2025/6 it would take on the ownership and management of all the green spaces in the town and would set aside a budget in 2024/5 to prepare for that.
The Council will need to increase its staffing to take on the new functions it will be carrying out and that too has been factored into the budget.