It is, I'm told, quite easy to be liberal with somebody else's money. It is, I can confirm, rather harder when it's your money and that of your neighbours.
This week, it was time to set the precept for Creeting St Peter Parish Council, and once again, our calculations are complicated by the interventions of higher tiers of local government. With the County handling us a nature reserve, which will have long-term effects, and the District raising bin emptying charges - more than 1% on the precept alone - my responsibility as the "finance guy" means that I tend to pay close attention to the numbers.
This year, I took a rather longer view of the numbers, which meant accepting an overspend next year, whilst aiming to break even sooner rather than later. I need to think about how to pay for the nature reserve when the County slush funds run out, make provision for the replacement of our new playground in 2033 (or thereabouts) and set our finances up on a sustainable basis.
For all of those reasons, I felt it necessary to recommend a 6.2% rise in the precept for 2013/14. We will be able to reduce our costs somewhat - the generous grant from our County councillor to cover the cost of meters for our nine streetlights is likely to reduce our electricity bill by 40% from 2014/15 - 4% of our current precept - but the scope for further savings is limited unless we reduce staffing costs - 60% of our precept - an option that would be better avoided.
My colleagues have taken a slightly different view, and we agreed a 5% increase instead. That's fair enough, I think, and we''ll see where we are this time next year...