COUNCILLORS are hoping to swing an axe at Middlewich's draft budget in an effort to bring down any possible hike in the council tax precept.

An early draft version of the Middlewich Town Council budget for 2021-22 includes a precept of £472,640 – £87,926 more than this year, which is an increase of 22.5 per cent.

It would mean a Band D household pays an extra £17.60 per year in tax, which works out at 39p per week.

But at Monday's meeting, members spoke in favour of cutting non-essential spending next year to keep tax bills as low as possible following the coronavirus crisis.

Cllr Mike Hunter, chairman of Middlewich Town Council, said: “This year should be the year that we look to set a realistic budget, which is to not overreach ourselves and not take everything out of reserves.

Winsford Guardian:

“We’ve got people on 80 per cent pay in this town, we’ve got people on less than 80 per cent pay, we’ve got people using foodbanks that have never used foodbanks in their lives.

“We can’t increase our precept. It’s not acceptable for those people.

“Yes there are people in Middlewich that can afford 39p a week, and 39p a week doesn’t sound a lot, but when you’ve got bog all and you are feeding your kids from a foodbank 39p a week is a lot of money. We need to make sure that we do the right thing.”

Members insisted they could not raid the council's £221,500 reserves to restrict a precept hike this year, as this would lead to a larger precept rise in a future year.

Instead, they want to cut down the budget on non-essential items, such as flowers, and non-urgent repairs to the Victoria Buildings.

Town events, apart from Remembrance and Christmas 2021, could be axed – including the Folk and Boat Festival.

Winsford Guardian:

While the council would have to pay £9,000 in ticket refunds and would lose out on income from the occasion, members suggested it would be better to avoid paying anything towards them next year as they are unlikely to be going ahead due to coronavirus.

Cllr Dave Latham said: “Events are not going to be held for the Middlewich people, and yet we are budgeting and perhaps expecting the Middlewich people to pay a precept rise.

"That can’t be right because they are not getting what we promised them."

Other projects which could lose funding include the 'Make it Middlewich' scheme to drive footfall and the possible renovation of Southway toilets, while the chairman's fund could also be cut.

There are also question marks over the amount of money that will be set aside in case Middlewich Cemetery comes under the town council's control, with work currently ongoing to see if there is a legal basis for the town's burial board to continue running it.

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Following councillors' discussions on Monday, a new draft budget will be presented to councillors at a public meeting on Monday, November 30.

Residents will also be asked to submit comments on what they would like to see the council spend money on next year to admin@middlewich.org.uk by 10am next Monday, November 23.