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Gillingham Town CouncilGillingham Town Council has voted for a draft budget that would see the local precept rise by 2.9 percent for the next financial year.

An initial budget proposed for the year 2021-2022 would have added an extra £38,000 to the town’s precept, representing a rise of 4.26 percent.

But town councillor and deputy mayor Paul Harris argued that this was too much.

‘I believe that 4.26% is too high in the current financial climate for our residents suffering from the Covid economic fallout, job losses and reduced or no income due to lockdown,’ he told fellow councillors at a special online budget meeting of the full council last week.

‘It’s going to take a significant time for residents to make an economic recovery and this year of all years I believe that we we must do our best to reduce that burden.’

Councillor Harris said he suggested a 2.9 percent increase as this was the figure that the council had to follow as an employer under national guidelines on staff pay increases. ‘Realistically, if we go below 2.9% then we will be cutting into the funds set aside to deliver all those things we are supposed to deliver in meeting our responsibilities to residents,’ he said.

He added: ‘I just feel that this year we are in a very difficult position and we want to be able to limit the increase to our residents.’

Councillors then agreed to trim the budget in a few areas, including cutting the amount set aside for the future provision of horticultural vehicles, and reached a slightly reduced draft precept of £925,351. This is an increase of around £26,000 on last year, which represents a rise of 2.9 percent.

Mayor Barry Von Clemens said the draft budget  would next go before another meeting of full council meeting at which councillors would formally set the precept once Dorset Council had carried out their calculations for the council tax.

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