Preserve our Reserves

At their Monday evening meeting Whittington PC finalised their budgets and set the precept for the coming year.  This will determine, in part, the amount we each pay in Council Tax, from April onwards.

There was a lively discussion on exactly how much the PC should plan to have in financial reserves, to protect their operations in the event of unforeseen events.

Some Councillors held the view that the reserves were sufficient or even too high.  Others drew attention to the fact that the site railings had not been painted since  2014, and even then not all railings were maintained.

It costs something approaching £2,000 to paint all the village railings and it seems, to me, that it is unreasonable to expect this level of cost to be taken from a single years precept, currently just short of £4,000..

In order to get a feel for custom and practice I spent an inordinate amount of time trawling through the PC Minutes to establish what has happened in the past.  The table below draws an interesting picture.

Year End   Current          Bonus         Reserves       Precept     Reserves as
31 March   A/C            Saver A/C                                                        % of Precept
2010          £3.97               £2,082.74      £2,086.71     £3,300       63.2%
2011          £871.21         £2,100.30      £2,971.51     £2,800       106.1%
2012          £409.79         £2,113.58      £2,523.37     £2,800       90.1%
2013          £671.50         £1,126.47      £1,797.97     £2,800       64.2%
2014          £569.33         £1,135.95      £1,705.28     £3,900       43.7%
2015          £265.18         £143.17         £408.35          £3,400       12.0%
2016          £854.50         £143.32         £997.82          £3,300       30.2%
2017          £1,986.28      £143.38        £2,129.66      £3,630       53.3%

In a couple of years the PC decided to support expenditure which had not been budgeted for. One instance was supporting the Village Hall in the cost of new windows.  Another was the decision to support B4RN which, including the cost of repairing the tarmac in the Village Hall carpark absorbed nearly £700 of the precept.

It has taken two years to replace the funds used on these items, the result of which is that  we have been unable to re-paint the railings in a timely manner, and left insufficient reserves to protect against unforeseen emergency expenditure.

For what it’s worth, my opinion is that the PC should budget to maintain reserves in the region of £2,000.  In addition they should budget to add £400 for each year between railing painting events, up to a maximum of five years.

This would result in reserves varying between £2,000 and £4,000 depending on the precise point in the painting cycle.

I would like to encourage the maximum number of people possible to let us know their view.

John Keegan

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