Town sets its tax call
By James Burton TOWN councillors in Saffron Walden agreed on how much money it will ask tax payers for in the coming financial year. The council set a highest-ever precept of £550,790, an inflation-busting increase of almost 13 per cent on last year s £4
By James Burton
TOWN councillors in Saffron Walden agreed on how much money it will ask tax payers for in the coming financial year.
The council set a highest-ever precept of £550,790, an inflation-busting increase of almost 13 per cent on last year's £488, at a meeting last Wednesday.
But this increase will only affect council tax bills marginally, pushing up the Band D figure by just under £10.
However, to be added to the town demand, making up the total council tax call, are Essex County Council and Essex Police precepts, which have not yet been decided.
There are just over 5,700 households that pay council tax, and when considering the budget for the financial year 2006/07, Cllr Daphne Cornell reminded members that it was their job to serve the people of Saffron Walden as best they could.
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For this reason, she suggested that £50,000 that had been allocated to fit solar panels on Saffron Walden Town Hall should be reduced to £2,000.
Cllr Cornell said: "This will not directly benefit the people of Saffron Walden, which is what we are trying to do."
Cllr Michael Hibbs reminded the council that they had an obligation to save energy and investigate renewable sources in the future, although he conceded that it would probably take up to a year to be granted planning permission for the panels.
Cllr Cornell responded: "I already pay some 13 per cent of my income as council tax and simply can't afford to save the world."
The £2,000 that remained to be spent on the solar panels will be used to secure planning consent and perform necessary assessments.
Other areas where the proposed amount of money to be spent by the council was significantly reduced included playing field equipment, the bridge at the Anglo-American Memorial Playing Field, improvements to Common Hill, general grants and CCTV installation.
Cameras will still be installed at The Common and Herbert's Farm, where there has been significant vandalism, at a cost of about £15,000 each.
But abandonment of the proposed move of the equipment terminal allowed the council to reduce the total CCTV-related costs by £11,000 to £40,900.
In total, amendments to the budget saved over £145,000 on the originally-proposed draft estimates.
Saffron Walden's Mayor, Cllr Richard Freeman, said at the meeting that the town council usually goes for one ambitious project a year.
This year's project is the purchase of Gunter's Farm and £100,000 has been set aside to be put towards this purpose.
The land lies off Thaxted Road, just outside Saffron Walden, and would be used as a recreational and sports ground.
Cllr Freeman said: "If it wasn't for Gunter's Farm, this year's precept would probably be a reduction on last year's."
He noted that it was very
hard to gauge public opinion about the purchase of the land, but in circumstances like these it was necessary for the council to follow its instincts.
He pointed out that even if
the project did not turn out to
be a success, there would be
no shortage of parties who were interested in buying the land, so the council would be unlikely to lose any money.