Ashington Town Council precept maintained for the second year running, but plans remain ambitious

News Finance

On the final evening of January, Ashington Town Council met to agree the budget and level of Precept for the coming year (2023/24).

As well as sending the precept requirement to Northumberland County Council to collect from residents on behalf of the Council, we have used a video to illustrate the priorities and key features of this year's budget. Ashington Town Council has maintained the precept at the same level for residents for the 2nd year running. Click on the image below to watch the video (8 mins).

The Council pays for services and responsibilities through their budget. This is made up, in the main, from the Precept paid by the council taxpayers of Ashington, in addition to a small income from allotments, the reclaim of VAT, grants, and any balances from the previous year.

For the second year running Ashington Town Council has set the precept at a level that will result in no increase to their residents, recognising the very real struggle that people are faced with financially. Going back further the Council has never increased the Precept more than 2% and prides itself on being financially prudent.

The central theme of the 2023/24 budget is community. The Council has increased the funding available for Community Support to £120,000 which is more than 11% of the overall budget, with £20,000 specifically for youth outreach work. The budget available for events and community engagement has also been significantly increased totalling £63,000, up from £23,650. To ensure the plans for more community engagement are realised, the Council has supported a new Communications and Engagement Officer post, that Senior Administrative Officer Sharon Parmley will take on. Sharon is looking forward to developing a much closer  working relationship with the remarkable groups in Ashington; we know the amazing work they do.  Recruitment for additional administrative support will commence very soon.

Residents will welcome the Council’s commitment to tackling Climate Change and enhancing the Environment. Gateway entrances and Station Road beds were redesigned with sustainable planting last year. The upcoming budget identifies funding to be spent on environmental enhancements in each of the six wards of the town, taking improvements to the heart of where people live. A budget of over £30,000 has been maintained for Climate Change projects and initiatives which the Climate Change Committee are eager to put plans in place to spend.

Environmental Services make up 35% of the Council’s overall budget at £369,927. 60% of this figure pays for the partnership agreement with Northumberland County Council. This delivers enhanced street cleansing and kerb sweeping, a more dedicated presence in high footfall areas, and a rapid response to illegal fly-tipping. In the main, this is not a figure that can be celebrated. Full bins being emptied is one thing, but the rest is as a result of some people not taking pride in their place. Ashington Town Council is keen to work with Northumberland County Council to magnify the sense of pride that we know is demonstrated by many, and long to be able to direct funding towards improvements in the environment for everyone, with less focus on cleaning up.

The Environmental budget includes public seats, litter bins, bus shelters, and memorials, all of which we look after well with the help of our Neighbourhood Services Officers, Mark and Ryan. The Clerk and Assets and Facilities Manager have developed a programme of replacing old assets, some of which were passed over to the Council, and a budget to achieve that. Having a team of officers that are committed to saving money where they can is a triumph for Ashington Town Council, alongside an enthusiasm to do what they can inhouse and to look after our assets to a very high standard.

The Council has increased the budget available for use of CCTV and expects to upgrade the system on Station road in the coming year, as well as being open to suggestions elsewhere. The Council want to ensure CCTV systems remain fit for purpose and operational for the benefit everyone and that they can be used in the prevention and detection of crime, to reduce the fear of crime, and to improve public safety.

Capital commitments to allotments continue, but the Council hopes to develop a plan to reduce ongoing costs with the support of the hardworking and dedicated Allotment Associations who manage the gardens on our behalf. The Council has a plan to work more closely with the volunteers and work for the betterment of allotment gardening and cultivation in Ashington.

Councillors are destined to cultivate their minds in 2023/24 with an increased budget for training. In keeping with the Council’s undertaking in response to Climate Change, Carbon Literacy Training will be delivered cementing the pledge to reduce carbon emissions and encouraging people to take action.

The Council has maintained financially responsible reserves for contingency, however these have been reduced slightly to give greater flexibility within the expenditure budget, and to achieve what is described above. General reserves and contingency are in addition to those reserves set aside for the replacement of play areas.

Chair of Ashington Town Council, Cllr Mark Purvis said,

“It is great to be part of a Council that achieves so much, but at the same time recognises the need to keep the precept at an affordable level. As well as being very careful caretakers of our assets, in the coming year we have plans to engage more in the community, and to enhance our events. Ashington Town Council has always been a generous council when it comes to funding. Community Groups are a lifeline for many in this town and we will ensure that the £100k committed is spent for the benefit of many.”

Leader of Asington Town Council, Cllr John Tully said,

"Ashington Town Council has finalised its budget for next year. This is a budget that demonstrates four clear priorities, that we will develop further and formalise over the coming year.

  • Keeping the town’s streets and estates clean and litter free.
  • Taking urgent action to fight the effects of Climate Change.
  • Supporting the community of Ashington as they live with the devastating consequences of Conservative policies.
  • Improving the environment by providing a pleasant and safe place to live for ALL the town's residents.

We have increased spending in all of these areas, whilst at the same time holding the Town council’s proportion of Council Tax at the same level for two years, a very prudent and remarkable achievement.

Ashington Town Council is committed to make everyone 'Proud to live in Ashington'."

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