Fears for services after budget decision is made

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A COUNCILLOR has warned of a ‘prolonged period of austerity’ for residents after a £200,000 precept figure was announced.

Cllr Tony Simmons branded Brandon Town Council’s 2011-2012 precept figure as ‘cut to the bone’ at a meeting on Monday night.

The precept is the part of Council Tax levied on residents by parish or town councils to pay for running costs.

Despite a 3.9 per cent rise in this year’s figure, Cllr Simmons felt services, ranging from public toilets and street lighting to youth services and charity donations, would be damaged.

Cllr Simmons said: “We are in no financial state to do anything with the adoption of this precept.”

In a separate statement, Cllr Simmons added: “This council seems to be bereft of ideas for improving the town’s facilities.

“Members say they want to have more power to do things but the reason that we cannot is because we have no money available to do them.”

Cllr Simmons’ comments came after he returned a report to the council warning that the Government will be looking to cap or reduce precepts from next year.

He also raised concerns that the effects of any reduction in precepts would be compounded by Suffolk County Council’s move to give responsibility for a number of services to parish and town councils.

The town clerk, Christine Mason, and several councillors defended the figure.

Mrs Mason said: “We can’t increase the figure on speculation that we might get certain services sent down to us.”

Mrs Mason added that the budget was ‘fair’ and emphasised Brandon’s record for regularly having a small underspend.

She insisted that the figure was in no way politically motivated after it was set at £199,355, just below the £200,000 mark.

Cllr Stephen Edwards, chairman, said: “We can’t budget for ifs and buts.

“We considered the issue very seriously and this is the decision we have made.”

The council approved the figure which was calculated at a meeting on November 15 – a meeting Cllr Simmons was unable to attend.