A HIKE in Chard council’s share of tax by 16 per cent has been defended by the town mayor as a possible last chance to balance the books.

Cllr Dave Bulmer, the mayor of Chard, has said the town council is doing all it can to have a balanced budget while also avoiding a referendum on the tax increase, a process which would cost the council tax payer more money.

The increase in Chard Town Council’s share of council tax was passed at the full council meeting in December, but is facing some backlash now as residents receive their yearly bills in the post.

The budget for 2017/18 was set at £624,541. The council receives a precept support grant of £15,800, so this means the amount they need to collect is £608,741.

This has meant an increase in council tax on Band D properties of 16.38 per cent, equivalent to an extra £20.29 per year.

Cllr Bulmer said: “The council seeks a balanced budget.

“In this situation we were well aware of the possibility that next year the government would impose a referendum condition if councils increase their budget above the two per cent.

“We felt this year was the last opportunity to get the budget balanced and to do that considering all the expenses that we have planned for the future.

“Town councils and parish councils are like any other business or household budget.

“Whatever you budget for, you have to have the income to pay for those services.

“It would be irresponsible of us as a council to neglect the things we are responsible for, like the Guildhall, the cemetery and out town’s open spaces.

“At the end of the day we are custodians of our assets and we must maintain them for future generations.

A Chard resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “So Chard Town Council think it’s correct and respectable to increase its share of the council tax by 16 per cent when the average hardworking person of Chard only gets one per cent a year pay rise if they’re lucky.

“What’s the world coming too?

“My main concern is paying more council tax when the standard of services is getting poorer.

“I wouldn’t mind paying more if I was getting an increasing standard of service.”

Cllr Bulmer added: “When you look at is, it is an increase of less than £2 per month, and quite a lot less.

“Over a number of years we have actually had a zero per cent increase except last year which was 1.5 per cent.

“We went into a lot of considerations and had workshops prior to the budget to see where we could trim sums off.

“Each of the committees, with the exception of planning, had the opportunity to further discuss the financial aspect of the precept budget.

“All things considered, that much a year increase, taken into the context that there has been no increase for several years with the small exception of last year, is really not that much.

“If we have to have a referendum then that would cost the council tax payer money, so we need to avoid that at all costs.

“You also need to look at towns in our area of a comparative size.

“In Langport, what they are paying for a Band D property is above Chard, and Somerton is paying more than Chard.”

The annual parish tax precept for Band D properties in Chard in 2016/17 was £124.04. That has now risen to £144.33 for 2017/18.

Comparatively, Crewkerne’s precept for this year is £173.93, Ilminster’s has been set at £145.24, and Somerton residents will pay £188.98 to their town council.

Meanwhile, Langport residents have had their precept set at £248.85.

Band D properties in Chard will also pay £157.48 to South Somerset District Council, £1,082.36 to Somerset County Council, £42.43 to SCC adult social care, £181.81 to the police and crime commissioner, and £81.57 to the fire service.

This means a total of £1,689.98.