In line with our commitment to be transparent, we’d like to explain more about the Parish Council budget for 23/24, particularly as the annual charge for a band D residence in Eynsham will rise from £77.84 to £100.85. This is an increase of 44p extra per week or 29.6%, but remains lower than similar-sized parishes, such as Bampton and Woodstock. When residents’ costs are escalating generally, we recognise this is challenging and want to explain why it’s happening.
Over the last five years, we’ve steadily increased council resources, including hiring more staff and upgrading our IT systems, allowing residents to attend meetings online. This has helped us better serve the community and respond to increased demand on our services.
This demand includes a need to meet greater levels of compliance and fulfil various public requests for projects/improvements, with the main demand on our time being from the multitude of planning applications and local development projects. We respond to every consultation at every step and regularly meet with key decision makers to ensure local views are clearly expressed. This is a very time-consuming process for our officers, often involving reviewing hundreds of pages of documents. Hiring additional officers has helped.
Big projects, high costs
Like many other organisations, we face rapidly escalating costs. Energy costs have doubled and our employee salaries for our four staff members have risen by around 7% (as decided on a national level – we have no say in this). Councillors remain voluntary positions without pay/allowances.
We have also recently corrected serious structural issues and modernised facilities at the Bartholomew Room. This was funded via a Public Works Loan, to be repaid over the next eight years.
High levels of cash reserves resulted in us avoiding passing the full cost of this increased spending to residents until now. Our cash reserves have reached a normal level and it’s crucial that we stop running with deficits. In the coming financial year, our income will match our expenditure.
The budget was debated with the full Council and we explored all the options, including cutting our services to avoid a cost rise for residents. We decided that maintaining our services, albeit with cost-saving changes wherever possible – and making a one-off but significant increase in the charges was the better option.
We hope you can understand the decisions made. You’re welcome to contact the Council if you’d like more details or to discuss further.