Tavistock Town Council defends council tax increase of 9.5%

By Sarah Pitt   |   Reporter   |
Friday 30th March 2018 7:00 am
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THE mayor of Tavistock has insisted that the town council is ‘not wasting money’ after being challenged to defend an increase of 9.5% in its share of the council tax.

Resident John Taylor asked town councillors about its increase of ‘nearly 10%’ in the town portion of the council tax for the year starting at the beginning of April.

He was among residents speaking at the annual town meeting in Tavistock Town Hall on Tuesday last week (March 20), an annual opportunity for Tavistock people to quiz councillors.

‘When my rates bill arrived showing nearly a 10% increase there was nothing in the paperwork to show what it was for and neither was there anything in there to explain why the increase has to be 10%. Could we have some figures?’ asked Mr Taylor. ‘A simple A4 that the town council could do for the residents of Tavistock, letting them know, would be helpful. Tavistock now has the has the highest rates [council tax] in Devon.’

Council tax payers in Tavistock are being asked to pay an extra £135.30 on an average Band D property in ‘precept’ to the town council for the year April 2018-March 2019.

Town clerk Carl Hearn said that a breakdown of the town council’s budget could possibly be included in future with the council tax bill sent out by West Devon Borough Council each year.

Pressed to reveal details by Mr Taylor, he said the town council’s gross income for the year ahead was £1.5- million, not including possible grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund for restoring The Guildhall, which have yet to be agreed.

‘The revenue spend by the council is largely consistent from one year to another,’ said Mr Hearn. ‘There are also expensive capital works [though] being undertaken by the council. To restore The Guildhall, we still have to find in the order of £365,000 funding. Going forward as usual we still need to look at the levels of support we have to provide to the Townscape Heritage Initiative as a delivery partner, and of course most of our buildings are listed buildings and that brings a series of obligations to the town council.’

The council has plans for The Guildhall, which used to house the magistrates court and police station, to become a ‘gateway’ for the West Devon and Cornwall Mining World Heritage Site.

‘The Guildhall was acquired about four years ago from the Devon Historic Buildings Trust and we have been working to put together a proposal for Heritage Lottery funding. We are looking for £1.6-million to fund it,’ said Mr Hearn. ‘We are very much hoping that if it is successful we will be able to preserve that building in public use and public ownership, something that the will increase the footfall in the town centre.’

Mr Hearn added that the council had also earmarked £350,000 in the coming year’s budget towards the ongoing work refurbishing the pannier market, with traders currently displaced to the adjoining Butchers Hall.

‘Maintaining and developing that offer is a very important part of the town and what it brings to the people of Tavistock,’ he said.

Town mayor Philip Sanders, speaking earlier in the meeting, said the council kept its bills down as much as it could.

‘With the income from the pannier market and income from properties we rent out, we manage to cover more than half the cost of the services we provide to the town,’ he said.

‘We are not wasteful of your money. The thing that is foremost in our minds is whether something is good value for money or not.’

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