Ammanford town council may raise precept by £15,000

AMMANFORD town council may increase the town's precept by £15,000 – to fund the employment of a full-time technical officer to manage the town's park and recreational areas.

The proposed increase – which works out at an extra £7.65 a year for a Band D property in the town – was put forward at a tempestuous meeting of the council's finance committee in Ammanford Town Hall last night.

The move – which will be discussed at next Tuesday's meeting of full council – is the result of Carmarthenshire county council's asset transfer programme borne out of huge financial cuts.

Town mayor Irena Hopkins stormed out of last night's meeting after the committee elected to consider an independent report on the council's finances compiled by Cllr Andrew Lewis.

Chairperson Wendy Evans struggled to control order as tempers flared and threatened to draw the meeting to a close on two occasions.

County councillor Deian Harries admitted that feedback members had received at Monday night's public meeting had "not been too good" and described the way some residents had addressed fellow councillor Colin Evans as "disgraceful".

He suggested that the reason so many people were opposed to a rise in the precept was because it had been kept low for so long – compared to other towns.

"The average Ammanford household pays around £40 a year towards the running of the town – a lot less than other places," he told colleagues.

"Those years of no precept increases have come back to bite us – after years of no increase an actual increase will seem like a criminal offence.

"But if we want to bring Ammanford up to date we need serious investment – we have to take the hit."

Cllr Evans agreed that, in the past, the town council had been "too shy" in putting the precept up in order to fund essential projects.

"I think we should act now before it's too late and while we still have the support of Carmarthenshire county council and its leader, Kevin Madge," he added. "Now is the time to grasp the nettle."

Cllr Jonathan Davies said several people who attended the public meeting felt strongly that the local authority should continue to fund local recreational amenities.

"Deep down I agree," he said. "But we have to face up to reality – the tap has been turned off at Westminster."

The committee also proposed using the council's reserves to fund CCTV in Ammanford Park and lights at the Wilkinson's pedestrian crossing.

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