Council set to record 'extremely alarming' financial losses

PUBLISHED: 07:17 11 September 2019 | UPDATED: 07:23 11 September 2019

Portishead Folk Hall. Picture: Google

Portishead Folk Hall. Picture: Google

Google

Losses exceeding £50,000 over a two-year period are expected to be posted by Portishead Town Council, spelling 'bad news for the town'.

Bob Bull.Bob Bull.

The authority is due to post 'extremely alarming' losses at its meeting at the Folk Hall tonight (Wednesday), where councillors will discuss options to improve its financial position.

In 2018/19, the town council recorded an overspend of more than £13,000, and the forecasts for this year are more worrying - with predictions indicating a loss of close to £40,000 is expected.

The town council's reserves have fallen below recommended levels as a result.

The refusal of the previous administration - the vast majority of which lost or forfeited their seats in May's local elections - to increase the town council's precept in recent years has been blamed for the cash concerns.

Bob Bull, chairman of the town council's staffing and finance committee, said: "Last year the town council spent £13,097 more than it received and this year's budget is worse.

"Before the election in May the town councillors then in office, again refused to increase the precept, instead they decided to reduce it despite being in a loss making situation, and as a result the council finances are showing a predicted expenditure of almost £40,000 more than its income for the current year.

"This is extremely alarming, it is certainly not good practice and it is bad news for the town."

The precept is the portion of council tax raised by the town council to spend in Portishead, and in January the slim majority of councillors agreed to a 'morally indefensible' decrease in the precept to £26 a year - almost £10 cheaper than it was a decade ago.

Fears the authority would be left 'hamstrung' by the 'penny pinching' have materialised, leaving councillors mulling cuts or tax rises to address the situation.

The town council has warned cuts to grants awarded to groups like Portishead Christmas Lights or Portishead In Bloom are 'almost certain' if the precept is not increased.

Cllr Bull added: "The people of Portishead will ultimately decide the course of action.

"Following an initial formation and meeting of a sub-committee in October to assess options, the council will open a consultation in November. The data from that consultation will be used for the council to make its decision, which I would expect to see announced early in the new year."

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