TOWN councillors praised their ‘aspirational’ budget for 2020-21 as they voted to approve it on Monday night.

Winsford Town Council’s plans for the next financial year include setting £30,000 aside for a ‘participatory budget’ – which will see residents and community groups get the chance to have their say on where that money goes.

However, the tax precept is set to rise by six per cent – with the council set to rake in an extra £34,019 over last year’s precept, at £536,393 compared to £502,374 in 2019-20.

Cllr Mike Baynham, Conservative member for Over and Verdin on Cheshire West and Chester Council, spoke out at the tax rise during the public forum.

“For the hard-working taxpayers of Winsford it’s another struggle for them again,” he said.

Winsford Guardian:

“We will no doubt have some slush about the participatory budget. It is slush, because that allows £30,000 to be used for the participatory budget.

“That should not be brought on as ‘look what we are doing for you’ because that is fairly equivalent to the rise in council tax this year.

“This is, in my opinion and the opinion of at least one or two others, a not very well-thought through budget because it is costing us yet again with very little given back.”

The tax hike means the town council will take an extra £3.40 per year from a Band D household.

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When added to the 3.99 per cent tax increase proposed by CWAC, plus the precept rises for both Cheshire Police and Cheshire Fire Authority, it means a Band D household in Winsford will receive a council tax bill totalling £1,929.16 in 2020-21.

Labour Cllr Stella Mellor was a lone voice from her party in opposition to the budget.

She said: “I don’t agree with the six per cent rise this year. I think residents would rather have that money in their pocket.

“People are having to go to foodbanks still and I think that needs to be taken into consideration.”

But Cllr Joanne Moorcroft, chairman of the Labour group on Winsford Town Council, praised the budget – which also puts extra funds aside for Winsford Town Park.

Winsford Guardian:

She said: “This is an aspirational budget. It has been set cross-party.

“Unfortunately, due to the years of austerity, we have had to increase the precept and it is an average of £3.40 per year per household.

“The reason for the participatory budget is the fact that the grants have not been used completely over the years – so it is a way of getting more money out to more people.”

Cllr Malcolm Gaskill, Liberal Democrat, served on the town council in 2010 when it previously used participatory budgeting – and he suggested it was a ‘great idea’ to bring it back.

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“From a combination of what we did then and the new ideas that come forward it should be a good thing,” he added.

Full details on the participatory budget are yet to be confirmed, but it is expected that residents and community groups will be able to take part in the participatory budget during a workshop, while there will also be an opportunity for people to have their say online.