The Faversham Eye team was granted a meeting with members of the Town Council who informally presented their budget for the next financial year and explained the rationale behind some of the decisions.
We were impressed with the openness of their presentation.
Faversham Town Council expenditure this year will be just over 50% higher than the last two years. This is not necessarily a bad thing. We now have a more proactive Council that wants to make a genuine difference. Many parts of our town have suffered real hardship and deprivation after years of cutbacks and austerity. Increased spending will go some way towards restoring the town to what it used to be.
TOWN COUNCIL INCOME
Planned expenditure £562,760
Income is precept
plus other income
OTHER INCOME £13,150
FROM RESERVES £52,900
TOTAL INCOME £562,760
In the previous two years, the
final budget figures were
Roughly two thirds of the budget is allocated to largely unavoidable costs, such as salaries, and is in line with previous years. One large item is the annual loan repayment of £43,000 for the Town Hall at 12 Market Place. As detailed in previous Eyes, this was a ludicrous deal, but the Council is legally tied in and can do nothing to get out of the contract.
The other third of just under £200,000 has been earmarked for special projects.
The headline allocations for 2020/21 are as follows, the provision for these items in 2019/20 are in blue in the panel below:
Youth projects £51,900
Magna Carta £43,000
Neighbourhood Plan £30,000
20’s Plenty £28,000
Homelessness Projects £25,000
Climate & Biodiversity £15,000
The provision for the Neighbourhood Plan is unavoidable and the money allocated for Youth Projects and Homelessness is to be welcomed, although it will be important to ensure that the money is spent effectively.
The Council is committed to progressing the establishment of the 20 mph speed limit in the town centre. This will obviously entail considerable expense, but it is generally popular and it will help save lives and reduce injuries, especially among seniors and schoolchildren.
It was not entirely clear from the presentation how the £15,000 for “Climate and Biodiversity” is going to be spent. The editorial team of the Faversham Eye welcomes any efforts to treat climate change seriously. A cynic might believe this is little more than a political gesture. Watch this space.
The still controversial proposal is the £43,000 allocated towards the permanent display of the Magna Carta and the Town’s other charters in the small rear room of 12 Market Place.
We understand the natural desire to keep the historical documents on display in the Town, especially after the financially ruinous decision made by the previous administration to commit us to a liability of nearly £1,400,000 to buy the old shoe shop for such a purpose, the Eye believes that further financial investment should be postponed until the whole project is subject to sensible pragmatic analysis.
Questions that need answering should include:
What are the real long-term costs to the town to maintain a permanently open display?
Are inhabitants of the town and the wider residents likely to visit more than once?
Is it unrealistic to consider it being displayed in the Fleur de Lis museum, which is, after all, dedicated to the history of Faversham?
Are there better financial options? A sale or a contract with an exhibition company to take it on tour would generate a large amount of cash and give a huge boost to the town, providing investment for more productive long-term projects. One project crying out for money would be the complete restoration of what is arguably Faversham’s finest historic building: TS Hazard. It is languishing in the hands of Swale Council and was previously owned by the town. We could get it back and restore it as a major attraction.
The colourful leaflet produced by the Council to explain their figures was somewhat misleading and simplistic. The symbol used to highlight expenditure (see below) on the Creek was rather unfortunate. Perhaps they should invite a local school’s GCSE media/graphics department to have a go next time.
The full budget can be viewed on the Town Council’s website.