Bellingham Parish Council has worked hard throughout 2020 to increase the number of services we offer our community - from the basics such as street cleaning and additional grass cutting through to maintenance of our assets, such as repainting the public toilets and supporting local residents who were shielding or self isolating during the initial COVID-19 lockdown. The attached infographic shows some of the services we currently offer. We want to build on this work in 2021 and re-establish a rolling maintenance programme including repair and repainting of street benches, painting of bridge railings and repainting of bins, planters etc.
We would also like to invest further in our community (post COVID-19) and work to improve our offering to tourists who contribute a significant amount to our local economy, thereby supporting local businesses which create jobs for local people.
In addition, we have statutory responsibilities regarding the upkeep of the graveyards in Bellingham. The graveyards need to be professionally assessed for the safety of headstones, with any dangerous memorials having to be repaired. Work is also needed to repair and redecorate the cemetery chapel near the show field. The cost of these works will run to thousands of pounds.
Bellingham Parish Council, like all Parish and Town Councils around the UK, is funded by our precept - the small portion of your council tax bill that pays for our services.
For the past few years we have not increased the precept in line with inflation. While this has meant a real terms reduction in your precept contribution year on year, it has also meant a real terms reduction in our annual income. While the cost of some services is fixed under contracts for a number of years, when these need to be renewed in the future, we need to make sure we can still afford them. Even with our current level of service provision, the parish council has run a significant deficit of around £5,000 per annum for several years, which cannot continue.
This is where we need your help. The parish council will be setting its precept amount for 2021 at our January meeting. We need a slight, but unfortunately necessary, increase to the amount each household contributes in order to make up for the real terms fall in our income over the last several years, give us the income we need to deal with the additional works such as the maintenance and safety work on the cemetery and chapel, as well as the rolling asset maintenance programme. If we do not raise the precept we would need to look at cutting the services we currently offer the parish.
Please be aware that this is a change to the precept portion of your council tax bill (itemised on your statement as Bellingham Parish Council) and is separate from any increases made by Northumberland County Council or the Police & Crime Commissioner for Northumbria for services they provide.
Under our proposal, a council tax Band A property (such as Westlands, Cairns Road, Hillside or similar) would see an approximate increase of £3.83 per year, or around 7p per week.
A larger Band D property would see an approximate increase of £5.75 per year, or around 11p per week.
While no-one likes increases in bills we hope you will support us with or plans for 2021 and agree this is a small amount to pay to allow us to maintain our village to a high standard and make it an even better place for us all to live.
We would be interested to hear your thoughts on this, as well as any suggestions you have for improvements or services you would like us to provide.
Click HERE to tell us your thoughts.