Burgess Hill Town Council Abandon 15% Council Tax Increase
26th January 2024 |
The Liberal Democrat administration have abandoned a possible 15%+ hike on the Burgess Hill Town Council precept, opting instead for a 7.3% rise after public pressure saw them drop plans for an additional Community Engagement staff member and aborted looking to grow the grants pot from £12K to a whopping £40k.
For many years the Town Council had imposed minimal increases (sometimes even zero) on the public, so this rise will come as a shock.
Mid Sussex District Council are limited to a maximum rise of 2.9% but such constraints don't apply to town and parish councils.
What more are you getting for your 7.3% increase?
Not a lot! A cost-of-living wage uplift to all staff salaries (along with other increments) is seeing the wage bill rise by £53k to £781k. Staff costs make up 75% of all expenditure.
In addition, the council are taking out a lease on a depot in Bolney for their maintenance team operations which is going to cost £44k per year.
The grants pot is growing by a third from £12,000-£16,250, while the budget for community events is only increasing from £16,200 to £16,700 – which is below inflation.
BHTC Cost For Services To Increase
The finance committee have also agreed to increase the charges set by the Town Council for its good and services by 6% or actual inflation as at 28 February 2024 - whichever is the greater. The price of burials will also go up by inflation or by the cost imposed on them by the contractor - whichever is greater.
The 6% increase includes allotment plots, room lettings, advertising in 'About Town' magazine.
Community Building Fund Flounders
As an observer, the big concern is how Burgess Hill Town Council are not growing their community buildings fund quickly enough. The council had been aiming to save £100k per year but reduced that number to £60k in 23/24 and are only seeking a slight increase to £64k in 24/25.
Expenditure to make Park Centre structurally sound and fit for occupation by the community will occur in the next financial year, with talk of a possible refurbishment or extension not ruled out for the future.
The council have agreed to support Burgess Hill Cricket Club to the tune of £400k to help meet their aspiration of adding a first floor extension to the pavilion in St John’s Park and finances could be required in the next 12-18 months, this however, is dependent on Mid Sussex District Council also agreeing to fund 40% of the £1 million project.
In the last council term, it had been hoped that these projects - along with the preparation work for a second burial ground - could be financed without having to borrow unless absolutely necessary, but what the new leadership is now doing, we don't actually know!
The community buildings and capital project reserve currently sits at £496k.
We also still await full clarification on the state of the Beehive community venue project – an issue which has got the public talking in recent weeks due to the council looking to install an urban garden on the site of the former British Legion building. This land was supposed to be the home for the Beehive which has so far cost over £800k spent across two councils without a single brick being laid.
The Beehive and other big projects were conspicuously absent from the Strategic Development Key Area group meeting held on January 11th, which makes you wonder if everything is going to be buried until after the general election?
Town Council leader Richard Cherry will need to show he's really steering the ship, actually start talking at meetings and let us know the strategy. His Year 1 report card is nothing to write home about so far.
The next meeting of Burgess Hill Town Council is on Monday 29th January at 7pm. Community buildings and the council's financial strategy to pay for things are again not on the list. You can read the full agenda here.