Woodley Town Council is facing the likelihood of a financially challenging year in 2021/22 as a result of the pandemic which has led to the temporary reduction in, or closure of services, and facilities run by the Town Council, causing a significant decrease in income. Costs have been reduced where possible, with the Council only spending on essential or contractual costs. In addition, furlough claims for staff were made, where appropriate.
In these difficult times where everyone is suffering financially it is essential that the Town Council recognises this impact when considering what Town Council Tax to charge in the next financial year. In an unprecedented step, not repeated by any other Town Council in the Borough, the Town Council decided to ask every householder in Woodley what increase they could accept.
The survey was designed to provide a range of what was acceptable to our residents and not simply whatever the majority decided would be implemented. The results would be fed into the budget setting process where the thrust would be to keep any rise to be as small as possible. This range would provide the flexibility needed when discussing the financial options in the budget.
The survey, which was distributed to all 10,755 households in Woodley, was carried out between 9 October and 16November to gauge residents’ acceptability of four possible levels of increase. inviting response by either post using a freepost return card or online via the Woodley Town Council website.
Householders could respond either by post or on-line. A magnificent 22.2% response was achieved, meaning one in five householders gave us their views. Responses were received from all areas of Woodley, with no significant difference in response depending on location.
The full results can be found as Note 1. You will see that a number of residents added a fifth option which was a zero option which has been included in the data. Two out of three responses (65.1%) found a 40% increase acceptable with the 50% increase the most popular at 42.5% of all responses.
While comments were not specifically invited especially the on-line survey, many of the postal responses provided one. We also received many comments of thanks and support for the Council’s efforts during this Covid 19 pandemic which was much appreciated.
The most common comments received were:
There was also some confusion from several residents about what the Borough Council provides and what the Town Council provides with comments aimed at services which are provided by the Borough Council.
Over the next few months extensive work will be undertaken to construct a suitable budget to be presented at the Full Council in February 2021. This will take into consideration many different factors, including the survey results and the ever-changing economic climate created by the Covid pandemic.
“We are very grateful to the unprecedented response from residents who took the time to respond to the survey. Running a survey like this is a first in the Borough so we did not know what to expect. It is clear, through the huge return, that residents clearly appreciated being asked. Resident feedback is important when making decisions about the community as a whole. We appreciate that the Covid 19 pandemic has and continues to leave many residents in difficult situations. All of this will be considered when setting the Town Council Tax level for next year. We are proud to have got the current Town Council Tax level to be lower than the 2013/14 level. Our natural inclination is to continue to keep it as low as possible which is what we intend to continue to do for next year’s tax levels.” says Keith Baker, Council Leader.
|Option||Number of responses||% response Options A-D plus ‘no increase’|
|A (increase of 43p per week)||479||20.19|
|B (increase of 65p per week)||241||10.16|
|C (increase of 87p per week)||536||22.60|
|D (increase of £1.09 per week)||1009||42.54|