Whitehill Online has come across information which shows how Newcastle Borough Council (which Kidsgrove Councillor Margaret Astle is a leading member of), has almost doubled the Town Council's share of the running costs of the Victoria Hall, increased from £28,700 by almost £26,000 (25%) to £54,400.
This is after Kidsgrove Town Council proved that the Labour controlled Newcastle Borough Council intended increase of over £37,000 included some serious over-estimates. At the same time as this huge increase in Kidsgrove's payment Borough Council kept its own increase to 5% enabling it to claim "efficiency savings".
Newcastle Borough Council has estimated the shared costs to Kidsgrove Town Council is £38,575 to operate certain services of the Victoria Hall, Kidsgrove. This figure was questioned by the leader of Kidsgrove Council Mary Maxfield, who called an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) to solely discuss this issue.
Newcastle Borough Council had suggested that the Victoria Hall in Kidsgrove had the following operating costs for the year;
• Electric £6,500
• Cleaning £5,300
• Grounds Maintenance £6,500
These figures however were reviewed by Kidsgrove Town Council and some of the above estimates were proven to be widely beyond the true. After further investigation Kidsgrove Town Council proposes the costs to be;
• Electric £2,925 (saving of £3,000)
• Cleaning £2,000 (saving of £3,300)
• Grounds Maintenance £1,200 (saving of £5,300)
In total this represents a total saving of £11,600, thus making overall running costs for Kidsgrove Town Council £54,400 (previously £28,700) which although does not achieve a reduction in Council Tax for Kidsgrove residents, it does represent that some members of the Town Council are keen to question figures provided by Borough Council who predicted the running costs to be £66,000.
It is estimated that the Kidsgrove precept for Council Tax in the area will be about 0.7p (90%) increase per week on the average Band D property. Staffordshire Police (5%), Staffordshire Fire Service (5%) and Newcastle Borough Council (5%) increases all need to be added to the overall figure.
The Borough's rate was fixed at 5% despite opposition from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats who proposed budgets set at 2.9% and 3% respectively.
There is a perception by some political members that savings cannot be achieved without cutting services. This view is totally incorrect, as savings can be achieved by finding inefficiencies, using market forces (supply/demand) and/or changing processes – this is the case with the savings achieved at the Victoria Hall in Kidsgrove.
Electric bills were wildly inaccurate and the latest bills were unavailable as the Council has switched supplier, which should in turn create a reduction in overall costs. Cleaning patterns could be changed to reduce overtime paid, enabling the current caretaker to undertake this role provided in the current job description.
The cost of grounds maintenance will be reduced by £5,500 and the 8 hanging baskets will be watered by a member of staff. The front of the Victoria Hall will be turfed and the area abutting the railings will be planted with evergreen shrubs. This also has saved the Borough Council almost £7,000 because they will not be planting annuals or paying for watering of their 7 baskets and 3 troughs. It shows that the Borough Council can make efficiency savings if they tried.
The Town Council is working hard to achieve more savings next year by questioning Borough charges and it is hoped that the Precept levied on residents of Kidsgrove will be reduced. Eventually it is hoped that the Victoria Hall will be managed locally but this cannot be achieved overnight.
The Town Council does have some reserves but this is needed to fund repairs and improvements eg modernisation of the Victoria toilets which the Borough Council has neglected over the years.
This represents good value for money as the savings achieved will not affect the quality of the services offered and the aesthetic looks of the main focal point of Kidsgrove.
It has to be asked if this action by Newcastle Borough Council is once again basic neglect of the people of Kidsgrove? Questions have to be raised as Kidsgrove Councillor Margaret Astle sits as a member of the Newcastle Borough Council Cabinet, yet supported these plans to impose an additional tax on Kidsgrove residents.
The Deputy Leader and the E-Government champion Martin Bentley is also a local resident of Kidsgrove and it would be fair to suggest that he could and should have done more to defend the interests of Kidsgrove tax payers on this issue.
This decision is clearly not in the interests of the Kidsgrove residents, but a political decision enabling Newcastle Borough Council to claim that it has achieved to keep Council tax rises for the Borough Council at only 5%.
Newcastle Borough Council have certainly shown plenty of effiency savings. They seem to have been remarkably efficient, not at saving money, but at pushing the charges off to someone else.
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