PUBLIC MEETING INVOLVES RESIDENTS IN TOWN COUNCIL BUDGET CONSULTATION
Middlewich Labour Group have held a "Middlewich Matters" public meeting to explain to residents how the town council tax precept is spent by the the Town Council and to hear their views on priorities for next year.
The meeting, on 26th October 2016, was held at the Narrowboat Inn, Lewin Street, and coincided with the start of the Town Council budget setting process which has begun behind closed doors.
Cllr Mike Hunter said, "We feel that it is completely unfair that Middlewich residents are excluded from the council's budget meetings, have no idea how the current precept is being spent, and have no input into how the next one might be spent. We believe that residents' priorities should be heard."
Middlewich Labour Member Secretary Gareth Williams who chaired the meeting, added, "We took residents through the detail of last year's budget and some of the information was clearly a surprise to them, even though this information is supposedly in the public domain. I asked everyone whether they had seen this information before and whether they knew where to find it if they wanted to - and of course no one had been informed previously. It's disgraceful that the Town Council are so dismissive of involving the public."
Residents are mindful that they are paying the second-highest council tax in Cheshire East, but are not necessarily opposed in principle to paying this amount - but would like to see better value for money. For example, residents questioned the money spent on the youth club, when very few youths attend. One resident commented, "Everyone agrees that spending money on youths is a good thing, but surely there must be way that represent better value for money and involve more youngsters. Perhaps a 'pimp my ride' competition so they can show off their super-charged cars, instead of driving them round Tesco Car Park."
Concern was also raised about the huge reserves the council hold, as well as the fact that events don't seem to pay their own way, and that half the total precept is spent on staff costs.
Cllr David Williams assured everyone, "Please be absolutely clear - as Labour councillors we are asking exactly these questions of the council."
Cllr Williams also noted, "We are so grateful to the residents who have taken the time to make this meeting. It shows that the public really want to engage with local government. I did call on Middlewich Town Council to hold an official consultation, but unfortunately I was voted down by Middlewich First. If only local government was more receptive to residents' interest, we'd have a much more healthy and effective Town Council."
The presentation that was used at the meeting, detailing income and outgoings for last year's budget.