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Town Council’s ‘bold and proactive budget’

Melksham Town Council has agreed a ‘bold and proactive budget’ for the forthcoming financial year which is intended to address the significant challenges ahead, and enhance the facilities and amenities that it delivers to the community.

In generating its budget, the town council acknowledged that the financial pressures faced by Wiltshire Council will continue to impact upon the level of services provided for our community and that further services and amenities will be devolved to parish councils in 2018/19.

In Melksham’s case this will include play areas in the town, King George V Playing Fields, and bus shelters, for example.  In recognising this, the Town Council has made a financial provision of £65,000 to recruit two additional staff, together with associated lawn mowing and ancillary equipment to be engaged on grounds maintenance activities. It is envisaged that this will provide the ability to deliver more frequent grass cutting to key amenity areas such as the cemetery and play areas where, given the lack of available funding, the standards have fallen below satisfactory levels in recent years.

Moreover, given the town council’s commitment to refurbish and enhance play equipment and facilities on offer such that children and families have improved social and recreational facilities to enjoy, funding has also been identified within the budget, including a £45,000 contribution from the precept to complete the funding for a new splash pad within King George V Park to reintroduce a wet play facility for children following Wiltshire Council’s decision in 2014 to close the much-loved and well-used paddling pool.

Recognising the challenges posed by reduced funding, the town council has allocated £20,000 towards exploring ways in which volunteers and community groups can be supported through a revised Town Team initiative. This will include the recruitment of an engagement officer to co-ordinate and harness the enormous amount of goodwill within the community by supporting voluntary and community groups through enhanced networking, and promoting equipment and resource sharing and training which, it is envisaged, will generate significant community benefits, particularly in respect of maintaining and enhancing our public spaces.

The town council’s budget also includes an additional £4,000 to provide sustainable floral displays; £3,500 to maintain and replace street furniture such as bus shelters and litter bins; and £2,000 for the ongoing care and maintenance of trees within the town.

At a meeting of Melksham Town Council held on 15th January, it was agreed to set the local precept (the proportion of Council Tax payable to the town council) at a figure of £763,750. This means that for the financial year commencing in April 2018, the precept of a Band D property will be increased by 49p per week to £140.78 per year, which represents an increase of 21.90% over the figure charged in 2017/18.

“The town council recognises that residents want value for money from their council tax” explained Town Mayor, cllr Adrienne Westbrook, “and our budget means that an increase of 49p per week will deliver a number of upgrades and service changes that will benefit the community, ensuring that we’re well placed to confidently face the challenges ahead. It is perhaps interesting to note that even with this increase, the 2018/19 Band D precept of £140.78 is still below the comparative charges levied by Calne, Royal Wootton Bassett, Malmesbury, Marlborough, Chippenham, Corsham, Devizes, and Trowbridge.

“Our budget reflects a responsible and proactive attempt by the town council to ensure that our community is not compromised by the reduction and withdrawal of services and facilities by Wiltshire Council, and reflects the desire to take ownership of services and amenities in order to positively enhance the offer provided for our community; to embrace, harness and optimise the opportunities associated with goodwill and civic pride; and, crucially, to move Melksham forward as a great place to live, work and visit.”

The town council’s budget includes the following key elements:

• The employment of two grounds maintenance town wardens, and purchase of associated lawn mowing equipment and an additional van, to move towards in-house responsibility for grounds maintenance and more frequent grass cutting activity in play areas and the cemetery.

• To utilise funds from the town council’s general and earmarked reserves, solar farm community benefit monies and the precept to fund the installation of a splash pad in King George V Park.

• To provide funding for the employment of a part-time community engagement facilitator to develop the Town Team initiative and bring it to fruition.

• To provide for increased street furniture expenditure associated particularly with the replacement, maintenance and repair of litter bins and bus shelters.

• To fund tree maintenance requirements recognising the need for tree surveys and associated husbandry following the acquisition of trees as part of land assets that will be transferred from Wiltshire Council.

• A contribution in respect of liability for maintenance costs to the Pavilion in King George V Park following its transfer from Wiltshire Council.

• Additional monies for floral planting, recognising the increased number of hanging baskets and large planters within the town and the desire to undertake spring/winter planting.

• Funding for a Remembrance Day event to commemorate the end of the First World War.

• A contribution towards the development of a masterplan for a community recreation area at the ex-George Ward Playing Fields.

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