Published: October 28, 2010
Burnham Town Council gives £40,000 lifeline to public services

Councillors at Burnham and Highbridge Town Council have this week voted in favour of spending more than £40,000 to keep public toilets open in the two towns and dog waste bins emptied in the wake of huge spending cuts.

It follows a plea from cash-strapped Sedgemoor District Council for the town council to contribute towards the cost of maintaining various threatened public services. first reported in August that Sedgemoor District Council had called on local town and parish councils to contribute towards the cost of public loos, dog waste bins and halls as it faces huge cuts.

Sedgemoor's Corporate Director Alison Griffin met with town councillors earlier this month to discuss which services it may be prepared to take responsibility for.

And at this week's meeting of the Town Council's Policy and Finance Committee in Burnham's council chambers, pictured, councillors cautiously agreed to take on half of Sedgemoor's costs for public loos and emptying dog waste bins.

Cllr Chris Williams warned: "I am concerned that if we agree to take on some of the costs now that they could well rise year by year in the future as we increase our burden."

And Cllr Ken Smout added: "It worries me that we're considering taking on each service individually when it would be cheaper to look at the bigger picture and include several services as part of a wider agreement. We need a long term strategy in place for dealing with this, not a short-term solution."

Town Clerk Eileen Shaw said putting in place a long-term strategy would not be possible until after next May's local elections: "Any strategy we put in place now will need to be fully re-considered by the new council next Spring."

Cllr Dennis Davey said there are "potential savings" to be made by teaming up with other parish councils. "Brent Knoll and East Brent Parish Councils are among several that are interested in working together with us to jointly run local services," he said.

Cllr Peter Burridge-Clayton welcomed the news that the cost of emptying dog waste bins had fallen from the costs quoted by Sedgemoor earlier in the month.

"I'm pleased the cost has come down to a more reasonable level of £24,000 per year, which is far less than the earlier quote."

He proposed that the town council give £12,000 of annual funding to Sedgemoor to help with half its costs. The proposal was seconded by Cllr Davey on the condition that a longer-term strategy is put in place. Councillors voted in favour.

A second vote was taken on whether to provide £32,500 to Sedgemoor as a contribution to its annual costs of keeping public toilets maintained and open in Burnham and Highbridge. Again, the committee voted in favour using money from the town council's reserves.

Both decisions are subject to a final vote by councillors at next week's full town council meeting.


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