Woodley residents share views on possible precept increase

Keith Baker
Cllr Keith Baker, Woodley Town Council leader

ONE in five Woodley households has responded to a survey seeking opinions over this year’s council tax precept.

Woodley Town Council took the action after the coronavirus pandemic saw a reduction in its income – its venues, including the Oakwood Centre and Coronation Hall, have been closed, and there has been limited use of the pagoda area.

The council says that while it has reduced costs where possible, including making appropriate furlough claims, it is facing the likelihood of a challenging financial year of 2021/22.

All parish and town councils in the borough are able to add precepts on to the basic council tax rate set by Wokingham Borough Council. This covers local services and amenities, with Woodley’s being the highest in the borough.

The town council said that consulting residents over a proposed rise was ‘unpredecented’.

It adds that its survey was designed to offer different solutions to see what residents would be happy with, and the feedback would help the budget setting process.

The survey was distributed to all 10,755 households in Woodley between October and November and they could respond online or by post.

In all, 22.2% of households took part from all areas of the town.

Two-thirds of respondents felt that an 87p weekly rise would be acceptable. This dropped to 42.5% finding £1.09 acceptable. And some people felt there should be no increase at all.

Reasons included a change in circumstances due to Covid-19, while some wanted more funding from either the borough council or the government. And some people suggested that the increase should be for one year only and then return to where it had been.

Now, Woodley Town Council leader Cllr Keith Baker said that his team will carry out ‘extensive work’ to prepare the budget for a full council meeting next month.

“We are very grateful to the unprecedented response from residents who took the time to respond to the survey,” he said.

“Running a survey like this is a first in the Borough so we did not know what to expect. It is clear, through the huge return, that residents clearly appreciated being asked.

“Resident feedback is important when making decisions about the community as a whole. We appreciate that the Covid-19 pandemic has and continues to leave many residents in difficult situations. All of this will be considered when setting the Town Council Tax level for next year.”

He added: “We are proud to have got the current Town Council Tax level to be lower than the 2013/14 level. Our natural inclination is to continue to keep it as low as possible which is what we intend to continue to do for next year’s tax levels.”

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