I have to admit that I'm quite pleased with myself today. Last night saw the discussion of next year's budget for Creeting St Peter and, like last year, I have emerged fairly triumphant from the discussion.
Our Parish Clerk is a cautious soul, allowing generous scope for cost increases of those key services that we provide - street lighting and grass cutting - and attempting to build up an appropriate general reserve. I, on the other hand, am more frugal. It's somebody else's money, at the end of the day, and whilst I am happy to fund services that support the village, I prefer not to spend it just because it's there.
Of course, you can't just slash and burn. With a small budget like ours, you have to be conscious that, whilst your expenditure might have been low in one year, the next year you might need to replace a dog waste bin, and for a small, but perfectly-formed, Parish council, that represents quite a chunk of expenditure. So you smooth things out, on the basis that you balance an underspend one year with an overspend the next. You also have to allow for potential expenses, like elections.
Luckily, I was able to find some areas that come under the category of discretionary spending, like councillor training, which might be cut back, and discovered that we had over-provisioned for legal costs related to the playground, which allowed me to propose a precept 3.4% lower than last years, but which corresponds to a standstill for the council tax payers of our village - our taxpayer base has shrunk recently.
Best of all, we'll be able to make very significant progress towards establishing a sensible general reserve, the aim being to have six months expenditure in the bank for a rainy day. And before you get carried away about our holding vast sums that might be better off in the hands of local residents, that represents £2,000...
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