Coffin up for the borough budget: Crem costs could soar, parking will go through the car roof - and blue badge holders may not escape ...Yesterday it was the turn of Chancellor George Osborne to address the financial problems facing the nation.
Today it’s a local affair, when Boston Borough Council’s Cabinet of Curiosities hears from the borough’s Osborne equivalent - Councillor Raymond Singleton-McGuire, who is presenting a draft budget setting report.
Like the head honcho in Westminster, our local chancellor faces some big problems.
Financial aid from government has been cut from £6,107,626 to £5,320,953 – and that of course means higher charges.
As with national governments, who treat drinkers, drivers and smokers as cash cows to raise the lion’s share of their income, Boston Borough Council is launching an attack along the same lines.
We’ve already seen the first skirmishes with a plan to raise allotment fees by 465% over four years. The idea is to try to force plot holders to form their own associations - and save the borough money – but it has met considerable opposition, and is now being reviewed by another of those Task and Finish groups that seem to say much and achieve little.
Then – as we disclosed last week - Boston's 18 parishes are being asked either to accept responsibility for “footway” lighting or pay £68 a light to meet the cost - which will force parish precepts up from ... at the lowest 13.6% in Wyberton to 105.2% in Frampton ... and save the borough tens of thousands of pounds.
Given the narrow operational scope of borough councils, there seems little room for manoeuvre when it comes to increasing prices.
So, as with central government and its penalties on drinkers, drivers and smokers, the borough has to look at how to claw in more from the few services it provides.
Step forward the quick and the dead – users of cars and crems.
A pick and mix programme of parking increases are being proposed that could yield £126,000 in 2012/13 and £166,000 in following years.
Perhaps the most controversial would be charging disabled Blue Badge holders, but just what is planned is unclear.
On one hand the report says: “The council would not be able to charge disabled badge holders for parking in the on street car parks such as the Market Place and Wide Bargate, but could reduce their “free” parking period from three to two hours.”
But then it goes on to add: “The estimated income from charging disabled drivers would be between £60,000 and £100,000 (assumed £80,000) dependant upon what other measures are also introduced.”
Other possibilities include a general increase of 10p across all tariffs to bring in £72,000, and increasing coach parking from £2 to £3 a day to make a further £4,000.
Then there’s the suggestion of upping tariffs in town centre short stay car parks only. They are the most used - and so less likely to lose custom if charges go up.
An extra 10p would bring in £31,000.
Raising prices in the cheapest all day car parks from £2.10 to £2.50 would generate another £11,000, and removing the "60p for 30 minutes" tariff in town centre car parks – except for the Market Place – would pull in a further £25,000.
The final idea is to re-introduce evening parking charges, which could gross £22,500 – although that would fall to £15,000 because of the cost of enforcement.
Whilst the report discusses charges for cremation and burial fees averaging five per-cent, this is probably because the proposal is to leave many charges unchanged.
However, the suggested rise for an adult cremation fee is £100 – from £440 to £540 – which again puts prices well ahead of Alford's crematorium, which has steadily eroded Boston’s income since it opened a few years ago.
Obviously, these are not all the proposals – but they are likely to be among the most heavily challenged.
Once finalised, the plan is to publish the budget on the council website for consultation by all stakeholders.
It seems that we are no longer ratepayers – which is probably why someone thinks that we can be charged so much.
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