WELLINGTON Town Council will increase its council tax precept for the next financial year while councillors get a 40 per cent raise, it has been decided.

Councillors discussed the 2018/19 budget at a meeting on Monday night (January 8).

It was decided that the precept would be raised by three per cent, equating to an increase of £1.22 per annum, bringing Band D to £41.62.

Eight councillors voted in favour of the plans, while three voted against.

The budget shows that the council has “healthy” reserves of £316,834, and the predicted spending for the next financial year is £224,404.43. The increased precept would value £213,633.

Opposing the rise, cllr John Thorne said: “I can’t support a raise.

“We’ve got to have a balanced budget.

“We didn’t spend what we’ve already raised.”

The majority of the members agreed it was best to raise the precept, so money would be available if they needed it as the council continues to take on responsibility of services from Taunton Deane Borough Council and Somerset County Council.

Cllr Janet Reed said: “We need to put it up, I can think of lots of things we could spend it on. Devolution is just around the corner.”

Mayor, Cllr Gary James, said: “Three per cent is not bad in retrospect. There’s nothing wrong with making sure we have something in our pocket.

“This is why we raised it by 40 per cent for 2016/17.”

Another topic of discussion was an increase in councillors allowance. Members voted to give themselves a 40 per cent raise, from £200 a year to £280 a year, in the first increase for 11 years.

One councillor strongly opposed the increase, and stated he would not be claiming his allowance this year or next.

Cllr Marcus Barr said: “I can’t support an increase in our allowance. I’m embarrassed to say I shouldn’t be getting paid for it when there’s people in the community that give their time for free.

“We need to set an example.

“I won’t be claiming it this year or next.

“Do we really need to be claiming expenses when there are services getting cut?”

Cllr William Brown questioned the level of the raise, stating that if it were to increase, it should be in line with inflation.

Another councillor had concerns that not increasing the expenses might make it less appealing for people on lower incomes to apply to be a councillor.

Cllr Mark Lithgow said: “We don’t want to make it an elitist group of people who can afford it.

“Some people would need to the money to pay for the fuel to get to the meetings and to go out in the community.”

The council voted to approve the increase, explaining that the purpose was for items such as paper and pens, and for travel expenses.

It was also agreed that the community warden would be increased from two days a week to three, and that consideration of service level agreements would be given to organisations that often apply for council grants.