Toilets were once again the main talking point as Alnwick Town Council discussed its budget and precept for the next financial year.
Northumberland County Council has previously announced that a review of public conveniences, saving 40 per cent, is among the reductions proposed in the local authority’s budget for 2015/17.
Ahead of deciding their budget for 2015/16, town councillors were keen to speak to county officers to see if they needed to factor in additional spending on the town’s toilets.
At last Thursday’s meeting of Alnwick Town Council, members heard that no change is proposed by Northumberland County Council for the toilets in the Shambles.
However, they are planning to undertake a review of the Greenwell Road to get a better idea of how they are used.
The authority is also keen to explore expansion of the Your Welcome scheme, which sees pubs, cafes and other venues allow their facilities to be used by the public, in Alnwick.
Currently, only The George pub is part of the scheme, receiving money from the county council for doing so, although there was mention from members that it needed to be better publicised.
The clerk suggested that there were three options for the town council: Do nothing at this stage; budget £1,260 to pay the county council to carry out extra cleans during peak periods; or take on the cleaning of both facilities with labour for one clean per day at The Shambles likely to be around £4,000.
Coun George Mavin proposed option one and doing nothing, particularly until the outcome of the review is known.
Other members agreed that the steady approach was the right way forward, while Coun Peter Broom opposed option two especially due to the ‘abysmal’ cleaning carried out by the county council.
Coun Martin Harrington said: “The Your Welcome scheme and pubs is the route we should be going down.
“Their toilets will be a better standard than anything we can provide.”
Therefore it was agreed not to budget any more for toilets next year, although the budget is to increase to £216,855.
Some of the extra will allow the posts of cemetery operative and town handyman to be combined into one full-time post, following the cemetery worker handing in his notice.
Other extras budgeted for include work to the cemetery, play-area replacements and the appointment of a part-time project-funding officer post.
The town council also reviewed its financial situation so far in 2014/15, with around £208,000 of income received so far and expenditure of £172,000.
The estimated remaining expenditure for the year totals £53,000, which means the town council’s reserves will sit at around £124,000 come the end of the financial year.
The reserves policy dictates that the council should have between four and eight months of gross expenditure, which is between £84,265 and £168,570 on the 2015/16 figures.
What will you be paying next year?
Members agreed to raise the precept from £179,455 for this financial year to £216,855 in 2015/16.
Ahead of proposing the increase, the council’s finance and policy committee compared other town-council precepts in the county, finding that the average for band D properties was £89.92 compared to £71.88.
Therefore, even with the rise of more than £35,000, Alnwick residents are likely to be paying less than in other areas.
Based on the budget and the tax base, the 2015/16 precept would give a band D equivalent of £84.76, or £1.63 a week, up from £1.38 – an increase of 25p per increase.
In the current financial year, a band D bill in Alnwick was broken down into £1,339.61 for Northumberland County Council, £86.61 for the police and £71.88 for Alnwick Town Council.
The town-council precept is 4.6 per cent of the total bill.
The members of the committee were keen not to use council reserves to fund the budget rise.