Why is Trowbridge Town Council’s Council Tax going up so much?

Why is Trowbridge Town Council’s Council Tax going up so much? 

A question and answer session with council leader Stewart Palmen 

How much is Trowbridge Town Council’s tax rising this year?

The town’s share of the council tax, which is covered by what’s called a ‘precept’, is going up by 23% – which is a high rise compared to other years.

 

Why is it so high? 

Because of several pressures coming together.  Inflation has been high and that’s pushed costs up, including a nationally agreed staff pay rise of 7%. Our fixed rate energy deal came to an end and that’s more than doubled our utility costs. But the biggest pressures are those caused by taking on services that Wiltshire Council used to provide. The biggest of these, and the biggest factor in the tax rise, is street cleaning and grounds maintenance.  This has meant taking on extra staff and buying new equipment. We have also taken over maintenance of the town’s Down Cemetery.    We could have shaved some money off the budget in various ways – for example cutting our Active Trowbridge programme, postponing projects like the new park toilets and bandstand repairs, or cancelling events such as the Uniform Services Day or Christmas Lights switch on. But we thought that people would regard these as worth keeping given the actual cost of the tax rise is about £1 a week for a Band D property.

 

What does Trowbridge Town Council provide for the money?

We provide street cleaning, maintenance of green spaces, litter bins and play areas. We run the Civic Centre which runs low-cost community events as well as concerts and entertainment. We run the Active Trowbridge Programme that provides sport, leisure and well-being activities for children and adults, including school sessions, clubs, events and parties. We run events such as the Active Trowbridge Festival, Lantern Parade and Uniform Services Day. We run Trowbridge Museum in The Shires which provides exhibits on site and runs an education programme for schools. We make grants to local charities. We will also now be maintaining the Down Cemetery. And we do all this for £271 a year for a Band D household, or £5 a week, the cost of a Big Mac.

 

Why has Trowbridge Town Council taken over the street cleaning and cemetery? 

Because Wiltshire Council asked us to and because we judged that we could do it better over the long term because Wiltshire Council is strapped for cash. This is because government grants to local councils like Wiltshire have been cut and local councils’ spending power has fallen around 10% since 2010.  Top tier councils like Wiltshire have also had tax rises capped at 5% unless they hold a special referendum to agree a higher rise. At the same time, demand for social care for older people, disabled people and children – which is the biggest spending area for those top tier councils – has been soaring, largely due to an ageing population. That’s reduced the funds available for everything else – roads, waste collection, school repairs and leisure facilities. That’s why we see councils like Birmingham, Nottingham, Croydon going bankrupt. In Wiltshire we have seen cuts to many areas over the past decade including the virtual disappearance of youth services. A cross-party committee of MPs recently reported that “the current local government funding system was broken”.  When the government started cutting council funds a decade ago the reason given was the need for ‘austerity’ following the 2008 financial crash. But the government has also cut other taxes, partly funded by the cuts in grants to councils.   Unfortunately, taxpayers in Trowbridge are now paying the price to restore services to a decent quality.

 

How does Trowbridge compare to other Wiltshire towns?

Our Band D precept at £271 is lower than those of Salisbury and Chippenham, which, like Trowbridge, are classed as principal settlements. Theirs are both in the £300-365 range. No-one likes paying tax but the precept level is also a measure of the money being spent on services and with Wiltshire struggling and having to delegate things to us, we have had to step up to being a bigger spender. Our level is now approaching that of Salisbury and Chippenham and that shows that all three of Wiltshire’s biggest settlements are now quite substantial organisations providing many valued services that County Hall can’t afford. Town councils are not required by law to do very much but we have chosen to provide the Civic Centre, Active Trowbridge, community events, park facilities and other services because we think our town needs and values these things.

 

How does the Trowbridge precept fit into the whole Overall bill

In the 2024/25 financial year, a Band D household will pay £1,805.73 to Wiltshire Council, or 74% of the total bill, of which £1,545.45 is for basic council tax and £260.28 for an “adult social care levy” earmarked for adult social care. The Trowbridge precept is £270.65 or around 11% of the total. The police precept is similar to the town council and the Fire & Rescue precept is around £100.

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