WELLINGTON Town Council has voted to increase its share of council tax by 23 per cent.

The town council agreed the increase to its precept at its first meeting of the year last night (Monday, January 7).

The increase, of £9.57, would see its precept set at £51.19 per annum for Band D council tax.

Kathryn Hemensley, town clerk, said the increase was 'necessary' to ensure the council can 'respond to new challenges'.

She added: "We are facing a very challenging period.

"Taunton Deane Borough Council is going through a huge period of transformation. Some of the services traditionally provided by the district authority are being cut.

"We all expect some degree of challenge, and a challenging period can also be an exciting one.

"WTC has some innovative plans coming up, including plans for a pop-up shop and a film festival.

"If the town is to thrive it is necessary to maintain the same level of service - but we can't do that without spending money.

"It's important to remember WTC has built up a slight reserve to help protect the town. It's not unusual for councils to do that, it's good governance to do so.

"This would be the first reasonable increase in council tax in years."

The town council is responsible for a number of services throughout the area, including allotments, grants, footpaths and community safety.

Mayor of Wellington, Cllr Gary James, said: "Costs aren't going to go down and we want to provide the same level of service."

Cllr John Thorne put the figures into perspective - stating the increase would be less than 20p a week.

He said: "It's a 23 per cent increase, meaning 18 and a half pence a week.

"It's a very small increase, but the amount of value they get for the money they spend is terrific.

"We do an awful lot of good work for the money we spend."

The council's reserves is set to stand at a 'healthy' £316,399 at the end of March 2019. The council says this amount is 'more than adequate' to cover any unforeseen expenses during the financial year.

Cllr Mark Lithgow said: "Wellington Town Council has run a a very tight shop over the years, in difficult times.

"The pennies added is never welcome, but its necessary.

"We want this town to be somewhere people are proud to be."

For the previous two years, the authority has raised council tax minimally, with a one per cent increase in 2017/18 and a three per cent increase in 2018/19. This is the first significant increase since 2016/17, when the town council voted to increase tax by 46 per cent.

But one councillor, Marcus Barr, said he believes the council shouldn't be asking its residents for more money to cover increasing costs.

He said: "For me personally, we as a council can't keep relying on the electorate to make money.

"We need to start getting assets to make money.

"When Somerset County Council can't cover services anymore, we can't keep asking for another £10."