Cllr Ray Georgeson –Budget Resolution
22nd January 2018
“I am pleased to be able to present a full Budget to the Town Council for the third time, fourth including the amendments to the Budget we made when elected in 2015.
The Resolution tabled asks the Committee to approve a budget of £495,408 for 2018/19 of which £423,850 is required to be precepted by Leeds City Council.
This Budget maintains the commitment to investing in Otley and our community as delivered in the previous Liberal Democrat Budgets.
It continues to support the objectives for the town that the Liberal Democrats laid out in our Vision for Otley manifesto upon which we were elected in May 2015. These were set out in four key themes of:
- Promoting local trade and tourism;
- Improving our environment;
- Leading healthy lives and promoting well-being;
- Streamlining council governance and administration.
Our Budget proposals again address all these themes. This year, I will highlight the main elements of the Budget.
- Firstly, the Budget continues to control the amount spent on council administration through good housekeeping, with the non-salary elements of the administration budget maintained at last year’s level and provision made for a salary increase for our staff, in line with the nationally negotiated local government salary review process.
- Secondly, we continue to maintain our commitment to funding projects for the direct benefit of the Otley community – through maintaining the £23,000 funding available in the Consolidated Community Fund, maintaining the £40,000 provision in Reserves for the Investing in Otley Fund that will support investment in community infrastructure as well as lever in additional funds from outside Otley (for which exciting applications are now emerging), and a new investment in Speed Indicator Devices (SIDs) to help raise awareness of speeding traffic and improve road safety by slowing drivers down. Three will be funded this year, in addition to those provided by Ward Councillors through Leeds City Council and we will welcome your thoughts on where these should be best placed.
- Thirdly, the Budget will maintain and further extend our environmental programme, including more planned work on the Gallows Hill management plan (including new ponds and tree maintenance), investing in further follow-up to the Cycling Strategy to promote the use of safer cycling routes, developing further our project now emerging from the Community Renewable Energy study and supporting a new Community Energy group because of the very successful public meeting we held to gauge support. We will also continue our support for Otley in Bloom, the Wharfedale Greenway development and encourage the development of the Wildlife Friendly Otley In addition, I know Town Councillors will maintain their active interest in organising litter-picks and town clean-ups (which comes only at the cost of a few brooms, pickers and high-vis jackets!) which also supports our continued investment in keeping Otley clean thanks to our Town Caretaker, kindly supported by Otley BID.
- This year, we also aim to complete the restoration of the Navvies Memorial and have anticipated needing to provide an element of the funding package by allocating £2000 in the Budget. £6000 has already been committed by the Railway Heritage Trust and once the legal and administrative details have been sorted out, we hope to progress a Lottery bid to complete the funding jigsaw and get on with the job. Further to this, we propose to commission a new Post-1945 Forces Memorial to commemorate in perpetuity those Otley service men and women who have fallen in conflicts since the Second World War, and will welcome views on the style and location of this memorial.
- Another new project we propose to start work on this year is potentially a very exciting one, the Beacon Hill Science Park. As Members will be aware from when this idea was first mooted by my Liberal Democrat predecessor, former Cllr Jim Spencer, Beacon Hill is a piece of Town Council-owned land on the Chevin which has some potential for revival as an educational, environmental and community resource. Working with the University of Leeds and Leeds Astronomical Society, we will bring forward a proposal for an observatory and associated scientific activity centre, part-powered by solar panels and intended to be available for schools and community groups, as well as the scientific community. A lot of work is needed on feasibility, planning approval and co-funding, but this year we want to make a start on what we expect will be a very popular resource and attraction for Otley’s students and future scientists.
- Next, I will address our commitments to trade and tourism. We will continue our commitment to supporting Trade and Tourism and increasing visitor numbers, this year with a diverse range of projects and an extra emphasis on trade as well as tourism. Starting with trade, we will begin a new initiative to promote Digital Otley. Working jointly with Cllr Sandy Lay who is leading for the Ward Councillors on this, we will host a Digital Otley conference during the Leeds Digital Festival in late April and begin the process of creating a Digital Strategy for Otley, working with the business organisations, education and the wider community. The pace of technology change means we must also keep pace if we are to maintain and create new digital-based employment in the future. We are supportive of the Leeds City Council bid to the Government’s Local Full Fibre Networks Challenge Fund (which will cover Otley) and look forward to working with local business and schools on this exciting and essential development.
- This year has seen some reward for the town’s joint efforts to promote ourselves to visitors, not least of which the successful Christmas promotions and we will maintain our support for activities to effectively market the town’s attractions including digitising of visitor information and continued PR support, as well as focusing on major events of 2018. Specifically, we are supporting the Chippendale 300 programme, to mark the 300th Birthday of Otley’s famous son, Thomas Chippendale. This will include events, lectures, quizzes, Carnival floats, a new trail leaflet, a Briscoe’s Brewery ChippendAle and probably more! We are also delighted to be welcoming the Tour de Yorkshire back to Otley, this time on two of the days, and we will be supporting promotions around that important event for the county and town. Thirdly, following our Bellman’s sustained success in Town Crier competitions, including being the current National Champion, we will host a Town Crier Competition sometime in the summer which we hope will provide a different day our for visitors and locals and give the Bellman chance to show off his new (desperately needed) uniform, as indeed it will for the Town Mayor as we will also enhance their civic role with a new uniform this year, which will prove an attraction on civic days alongside the Bellman. Trade and Tourism will also be sponsoring the established major events that bring in visitors such as the Cycle Races and the Folk Festival. These visitor-related projects continue to be a major investment in our local economy, that, linked to our continued efforts to improve our physical environment and work in a spirit of partnership with local businesses, Otley BID, Otley Chamber and Otley Town Partnership, we hope will continue to reap rewards and raise the positive profile of Otley.
Finally, in addition to these major investments and new projects, we are maintaining the commitments already well known and established – for example, £20,000 to the Christmas Lights (although this is the final year of our current contract and we will review the service to see how we can improve it without adding cost), £14,000 to the Citizens Advice Bureau service (although I must issue a clear warning that we expect to reduce this cost during the year, as we remain unhappy with the level of cost compared to the service actually received by Otley taxpayers and will again be making proposals to Leeds CAB to modify the way the service is provided in order to reduce our costs). We will also maintain our fixed commitments of approximately net £50,000 cost of maintenance of our staffed town centre toilets and £36,000 for the full annual cost of our current offices. We also this year need to continue to make adequate provision in reserves for future Town Council elections, the future cost of which must be fully borne by us. Nearly £9,000 is earmarked again this year for that purpose.
This year, I am delighted to say that some support for projects – notably in Tourism Promotion and Street Cleansing – has again come from Otley BID (providing £10.000) and this project support, together with our reduced grant from Leeds City Council and a reasonable estimate again for toilet income (£13,000) provides the Town Council with just over £41,000 – less than last year but still a notable income stream.
Concluding my remarks, I’d like to remind Members about our reserves and the Investing in Otley Fund. We continue to maintain the allocation into Reserves of the £40,000 sum, as a provision in reserves for future interest payments should the Town Council commit to loans in support of significant community infrastructure investment. As stated earlier, applications are now starting to emerge and so this preparation will prove to have been prudent, as we will hopefully find ourselves with one or two substantial projects worthy of our long-term support that the town can be proud of. In retaining the principle of that provision, this year in the absence of fundable investments, we will again utilise some £30,000 of reserves to maintain several of the existing and new projects I have already outlined, which still provides the Town Council with a decent level of General Reserves and minimises the impact on the taxpayer.
Beyond the £40,000 Investing in Otley Fund reserve, the Town Council’s reserves position continues to remain solid. General Reserves stand at just under £85,000 representing over three months of running costs, which is within stated guidelines for Town and Parish Councils. Some expected underspend on this year’s budget will also move into Reserves in due course and leave the Council in a stable financial position with the flexibility to invest when the right projects come forward.
It means we have established a total budget requirement for the year of £495,408 of which £41,421 will come from grants and income. It means that, after supplementing from Reserves, the requirement remaining for the Precept is a total of £423,850 – this represents an increase of £2.43 a year for a Band D property, making a total Band D charge £85.13. As a percentage increase this is 2.9%, slightly below the CPI inflation figure of 3.1% (Nov 2017). For a Band D property, it represents 20p per month increase for which we will deliver all the pre-existing commitments and new community projects described.
I believe that the combination of stabilising administration costs and good housekeeping together with our proposed significant investments in the Otley community have again delivered a balanced and ambitious proposed Budget. It is a Budget that seeks to look to the future – of our trade, our environment, our community – delivered in good faith within the powers and remit available to the Town Council as our contribution to the welfare of our community
Cllr Ray Georgeson, Chair of Otley Town Council
22nd January 2018