Parties argue budget hike at town council meeting

Nrhn 100311 Ripley Town Hall, stock image
Nrhn 100311 Ripley Town Hall, stock image

RIVAL political groups have rowed over plans to raise Ripley Town Council’s yearly precept.

Controlling Labour group proposals to increase the authority’s yearly budget from £97,000 to £122,000 were met with hostility from Conservative councillors at last Tuesday.

Tory opposition leader Cllr Ron Ashton claimed the increase was an ‘unnecessary burden’ on Ripley Council Tax payers.

A Band D home will pay £5 more a year from April in order to cover expected costs in transferring Ripley Town Hall into town council hands and in developing a Neighbourhood Plan.

Cllr Ashton said: “It was a scatty budget, there was not enough information, and for certain things I think it is too much to ask for the Ripley public to pay at this time.”

“The total budget was set at £122,956, I think it ought to have been more in the line of £107,000. My argument is with the town hall; how much do we need? We don’t know yet do we?”

Last week it was announced the town council will take over the running of the 130-year-old hall on a 99 year lease from owners Amber Valley Borough Council by April 2013.

The town council will pay only a ‘peppercorn’ rent on the premises, but maintenance and running costs are expected to total £60,000.

The town council’s 2012 budget proposals also include £15,000 set aside for professional fees which may be incurred in the transfer of the hall.

The group says ‘specialist advice’ could be required in having the Victorian building surveyed before use, but the cost of the work is still unknown. The £15,000, it says, is set aside in a contingency fund.

A further £20,000 is designated for drawing up it’s own Neighbourhood Plan as part of the Government’s Localism Bill, which was given Royal Assent just last week.

The Neighbourhood Plan would replace the borough council’s Local Plan in designating where building development should take place in the township.

Defending the budget increase, Labour leader of the council Cllr Steve Freeborn said: “The neighbourhood plan is a major exercise in democracy, we would be foolhardy to enter into the process without some funds to support it.”

He added negotiations with the borough council over the transfer have been ‘positive’, though the 99-year lease was yet to be signed.