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Monday, 28 July 2014

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Fears Cumbrian council will hike tax bills to fund 'extravagant' spending

An independent councillor fears that Workington town council will vote to increase its tax levy to fund its “extravagant” spending plans.

Stephen Stoddart photo
Stephen Stoddart

Stephen Stoddart has previously branded council plans to buy the town hall for £250,000 or lease it for £25,000 a year a “waste of money”.

Now the Moorclose councillor has hit out at a decision to appoint a full-time clerk on a salary of around £35,000 amid concerns that members will vote to raise the precept from £310,820 to £439,620.

The figures have appeared on a provisional budget provided to the News & Star by Mr Stoddart.

But council leader Gerald Humes stressed that the precept had not been formally agreed.

“We could half it, we could double it. We don’t know. We are not in a position to make a statement and if one is to be made it will be made through the clerk.”

He added that the council might be able to make a more definite statement on February 13.

Mr Stoddart believes that taxpayers’ money could be better spent on a youth zone for Workington.

He said: “Taxpayers’ money should be spent on other projects. I would like to see a youth zone set up in Workington. There are youth zones all over the country and they work.”

He wants to see some of the money diverted away from improving the back lanes towards developing these facilities.

Mr Stoddart, who has previously criticised the town council for holding “banquets”, claimed that a full-time clerk is unnecessary, adding that the town council was “expanding too fast”.

Chris Bagshaw took up his post as clerk this month and according to the town council’s original job advert will be paid between £32,800 and £35,430.

But Hilary Harrington, an independent councillor for Harrington, said: “So far as I’m concerned there is a need for a full-timetown council clerk.”

The town council has also gone from five committees to nine and Mr Humes said that they were trying to become a “quality council”.

Meanwhile, Allerdale council, which owns the town hall, has confirmed that the building has not been put on the market.

“We are awaiting a decision from Workington Town Council regarding their expression of interest,” a council spokeswoman said.

The town hall on Oxford Street is worth in the region of £340,000 with a rental value of £45,000 a year, but Allerdale council has offered it to the town council at a reduced rate.

Part of the town council was used as Allerdale council’s customer service centre until May, when it was moved into Allerdale house.

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