Mayor of Christchurch Vivienne Charrett defends town council’s 53% increase in band D precept
THE mayor of Christchurch has defended the town council hiking its tax precept by 53%, saying it equates to a rise of around 47p per week.
There has been angry criticism of the town council’s forthcoming budget for this year, which includes £80,000 for a refit of its new HQ and an increase of around £100,000 in its salary bill.
Commenting online one resident said: “Makes a mockery of the move to a unified BCP Council and only means a raw deal for local taxpayers who should feel aggrieved paying thousands for rent and fitting out new offices.”
But the mayor, Cllr Vivienne Charrett, said: “The town council is here to do what Christchurch people want, part of that is paying £55,000 to maintain the Splash Park in the Quomps for a year.
“If we had not stepped in, it would shut as BCP Council has withdrawn funding. The new HQ will hopefully be in Saxon Square and there will be an office where people can come to raise concerns. It will be there for the community.
“We have not had one since the civic centre closed, and it is costing a lot to keep hiring different places to hold meetings in. We had to pay BCP £15,000 for the use of the library alone.”
Talking about the band D rise from £45.68 to £69.89, she said: “It may sound a huge rise when you talk about it in terms of being 53% but it actually equates to around 47 pence a week.
“If you start with a very small amount, which in this case it was, any percentage is going to look big. But I visited a lot of councils around the country last year and, per head, their tax was often three times what ours is.”
She said the salary rise was because the two current full-time officers and two part-time officers “cannot cope with the amount of work”.
Cllr Charrett pointed out that it also includes the wages of a community safety accreditation scheme (CSAS) officer who is paid £40,000 a year.
She said: “She has done an absolutely amazing job of tackling anti-social behaviour in the town.
“BCP withdrew her for three weeks during August and September last year and the difference was startling. She really does make a huge difference.”
The 2024/25 budget was approved at a full meeting of the council in January. It also includes the cost of “ambitious plans” for Barrack Road recreation ground.
The park is currently in the process of being transferred from BCP Council to the town council.
A public consultation will be held on what residents would like in the recreation ground, and a specialist employed to conduct a feasibility study into the project.
The £100,000 cost of the refurbishment of the Mayor’s Parlour is included in the budget but Cllr Charrett said “that money has already been raised over the past four years and will be spent on the rebuilding”.
She said: “The roof was leaking and caused lots of damage to the interior. Once the repair work is finished, the grade II listed building will be opened up to the community to use.
“I hope a lot of people come to see it when it is reopened and use it as much as they want.”
Reacting to the criticism of the budget, Cllr Charrett said: “The thing is, for the town council to do things for the community we have to spend money like we are for the Splash Park.
“We have quite wide powers to take on services while trying to be sensible with people’s money.
“We have two choices: find out what people want and give them the services they want, or give up and go home.”
* This story has been amended from an earlier version which mistakenly referred to the rise as the equivalent of 7p per week