A 384-SIGNATURE petition calling on Ammanford town councillors not to increase the town precept was presented to town clerk Miriam Phillips before last night's meeting in the town hall.

And following another fractious meeting in which tempers again became frayed, members decided to defer a decision on whether to raise the precept or not until next Tuesday (January 21) when a special meeting will take place at the same venue.

The finance committee last week proposed a £15,000 increase – £7.65 a year for the average Ammanford property – in order to fund the appointment of a full-time technical officer to manage the town's parks and recreational areas as a result of Carmarthenshire county council's community asset transfer programme.

Petition organiser Jackie Corcoran – who said she was presenting it on behalf of the ratepayers of Ammanford – told councillors that no-one approached had refused to sign.

"We are against any increase to the precept – and that includes residents of Pantyffynnon which has been identified as an area of deprivation," she said.

"Some people are facing a choice between eating and heating – to ask them to put up with another precept rise just a year after it was increased by 45 per cent would be a kick in the teeth.

"It was made plain at the recent public meeting that residents don't want a further rise and if it is allowed to happen it will be seen as further proof that those in power do not care."

Town mayor Irena Hopkins told colleagues she was strongly opposed to any increase.

"We should show we have sympathy with the people of this town who are struggling," she said. "People just can't find any more money – it's not our precept that's going up, everything else is as well."

Town clerk Miriam Phillips told councillors they had to heed what people were saying.

"I've had a call from a member of the public saying that if we don't listen to the people of Ammanford that person would then have no choice but to seek the dissolution of this town council," she said.

Cllr Colin Evans complained such a statement was "tantamount to blackmail", saying: "I don't respond well to threats – we are here to represent our electorate and make decisions on their behalf.

He added that the council was facing "a double whammy" in that they would have to raise the precept to safeguard facilities in austere times.

Cllr Jonathan Davies said: "This isn't what I wanted when I joined the town council, but this is the situation we are in – we've walked into a storm and now we've just got to get on with it."

Cllr Andrew Lewis agreed tough decisions lay ahead. "Many people have approached me saying we have to look after our parks," he said. "You're not going to please all of the people all of the time."

Cllr Wendy Evans argued that the council had not even agreed to take over parks and recreational areas yet. "We're putting the cart before the horse," she said.

It was agreed to offset a final decision until next Tuesday's meeting (6.30pm) in order to re-examine the budget.