Budget 2022/23: grants maintained, Jubilee celebration plans and enivronmental aspirations

At its Full Council Meeting on January 20th, 2022, Lewes Town Council set its budget for the year. In setting the budget the Council worked hard to balance its desires to help ease financial strains on its residents, as well as ensuring Lewes’ facilities and services, valued by so many, remain to be enjoyed by everybody in the town.

The Council acknowledged the context of a rising rate of inflation, currently 5.4%, and other unavoidable increases to its costs, and have agreed a Precept that would increase slightly less than inflation, accepting that this wouldn’t cover unavoidable increases in its overheads.

The Precept, or the Town Council’s budgeted share of the Council Tax that Lewes District Council collects from residents of Lewes Town, was set at £1,259,778. This means that, for example, council tax for Band D will rise just 4.28% or £8.55 per year, which is only an extra 16p per Band D household each week.

The Town Council only receives a small amount of income from the hire of venues and allotment rent, which is used to offset the costs of providing those services to the community. This is different to, for example, Lewes District Council which receives around 85% of its income from Government reimbursements and grants, business rates, rents and only 15% from council tax.

Despite a move to reduce spending where possible, it was a priority to continue support for local community service provision, with the figure of over £100,000 for Grants and Service Funding Agreements being maintained. The Council recognised the value these funds have for the Town in supporting the economy, transport, culture, safety and support networks particularly for the vulnerable.

At the centre of Lewes Town Council’s contribution to public life are the unique and historic Town Hall, the 900-year-old All Saints Centre and the newly regenerated Malling Community Centre, which offer affordable, safe spaces for community groups and organisations to meet, as well as providing venues for weddings, civic events, plus regular markets and fairs. The majority of the Council’s budget is spent on delivering services and maintaining the high standard expected from these important buildings, as well as open spaces like Landport Bottom, historic sites such as Lewes Priory and the Pells, and over 200 allotments that enhance the diversity and splendour of the town.

The budget will also allow the Council to deliver proposed projects this year, including participation in a celebration of HM The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, a public environmental ‘waste artwork’ project and a Roll of Honour Book to commemorate those who lost their lives as part of the centenary of Lewes’ War Memorial. In addition, the budget will support the Council’s aspirations of improved energy efficiency, reduced carbon emissions and environmental enhancements.

An important part of the role of the Town Council is to represent the views of the town. Civic administration takes up 10% of the budget, administering for the eighteen councillors who sit on Lewes Town Council, all of whom are members of their local communities and act as a first port of call for residents, raising issues and working with Lewes District Council, East Sussex County Council and the South Downs National Park amongst many other bodies to make the voices of the people of Lewes heard. The Council influences town planning and tourism, and provides local amenities such as CCTV, bus shelters and benches.