COUNCIL tax for Tavistock residents will rise by 15% in April, after a decision was made by the town council this week to tackle ‘major’ budget pressures in its precept.

At a special meeting of the full council on Tuesday to set its budget for the 2020/21 financial year, Tavistock town councillors agreed a recommendation to increase its precept — the town council’s portion of the overall council tax — by 15%, which means a rise on an average Band D property of £21.76 per year. The overall council tax households will pay will include the town council element plus that set by the borough and county council for its services and police and fire services.

The decision to agree the large rise was made following the council reporting an ‘unprecedented pressure’ upon its budgets in the next financial year.

These pressures include the scrapping of the council tax support grant the town council received annually from central government, given through West Devon Borough Council, to the tune of £26,670 per annum as well as the council’s proposed take over of one of the town’s public toilet facilities from the borough council and the ongoing Guildhall Gateway project.

A report given to councillors ahead of the meeting stated that the withdrawal of the council tax grant, the borough council’s withdrawal from public convenience provision and of the grounds maintenance contract, the not previously considered estimated increase in charging for collection of dog bins and the town council’s intention to establish a fund of £20,000 for community-based initiatives had forced an increase in the budget.

It stated: ‘These pressures, among others, were identified by council at its last meeting both as major budget pressures and risks.’

The council is currently proposing to take over the Guildhall Car Park toilets from the borough council, which would cost the town council an additional estimated £35,000.

At the meeting, in response to a number of concerns, it was decided that the £35,000 for toilet provision should be specifically allocated to the provision of the Guildhall Car Park toilets, not, as recommended, be allocated for either the Guildhall toilets or to the borough council towards a possibility of an ‘alternative way’ to keep both the Guildhall and the Bedford car park toilets open, along with the work that has started on reopening the bus station toilet.

Cllr Graham Parker said: ‘If we agree to the £35,000 in the budget that money could be spent on the Guildhall toilets or as part of a contribution to a wider scheme undisclosed to us, which we have not seen a business plan for. It would be leaving us in the dark and handing over a blank cheque to the borough council.’