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Steve addresses the town council over it budget plans

(November 08, 2010)

The text of his speech.....

'I spend a great deal of my time looking at the affairs of local authorities – ranging from the country’s second largest, Hampshire CC to tiddlers  – and have been involved in this for well over two decades.


What makes my scrutiny of your council’s affairs unique however is that you are asking for my money and I also have the opportunity to speak up if I disagree.

And I do disagree with you.


 Why are you thinking of raising my taxes and your precept by 2.7 per cent at this difficult time when others are cutting back? Some of us working in the private sector have had no pay rises for two years.


 Why are you looking at cutting grants by 29 per cent from £84,000 to £55,200? Surely to pay for your mad scheme at the Assembly Hall?


 This unloved building is costing more than £100,000 a year. Would you have taken this liability on if you knew it was already a money pit? Your latest proposal comes along with no business plan and every likelihood that we will need to sink more and more into it. When you are in a hole stop digging.


This council is I see also spending £10,000 plus a month on wages and salaries and that is before NI and pension contributions and other on-costs are added. What for? – a number of your procedures are already out of line with best practice outlined in Charles Arnold-Baker?


I know of another town council in Wiltshire where a part-time clerk runs its own free car park, public conveniences, cemetery, community park and two large areas of allotment – all for payment of £800 a month. She also has more than 30 years’ experience.


Their Memorial Hall, which is larger than the Assembly Rooms, and is run at nil cost to the council tax payer by a voluntary management committee and is extremely well used and inexpensive.

That is a management model I would like adopted here. A charitable association focussed on the Hall would be more effective in fund-raising and marketing.


 You have no mandate to borrow £400,000 – it would have been a million pounds had Paul Macdonald and myself not kicked up a fuss and asked for the parish poll.


 By an electoral quirk you are not facing re-election next year – but why not? Your dual-hatted councillors must know already that you cannot be part of the administration at County Hall and have a meaningful role in this chamber. They should step down and you could all seek re-election, and a mandate for your ideas, at those elections at little additional cost.


The unitary councillor who has the communities portfolio on Wiltshire Council stepped down from his position as a town councillor earlier this year because of conflict of interest – Why don’t you follow his example?'

AFTERWARDS Steve said: ''After delivering this speech I listened to the debate and it seemed that there is to be a genuine attempt to cut some costs - though the elephant in the room is staff salaries at 10K a month and these were skated over.

''Councillors agreed that two budgets should be prepared - one with and one without the Assembly Rooms/Hall megaloan,

''It seems certain that the county council is going to ask the town council for a sizeable contibution to retain free parting of some sort and it is equally clear that the town council will not be able to afford the 100K a year cost of the Assembly Rooms and pay the county's price for parking.

''I think most would agree that some form of free parking is essential if the town centre is to survive while the Assembly Rooms .... well you tell us.''

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