Council to splash out £35k on right royal parties

A TOWN council is hoping to increase its budget almost a hundredfold from what it was three years ago to a third of a £1m.

Blyth Town Council was allocated just £4,000 to spend in its first year after being created as part of 2009’s reorganisation of local government in the county.

That was increased almost twentyfold, to £77,786, this financial year, and now looks set to rise to £353,750 if Northumberland County Council agrees to the authority’s proposals.

A tenth of that total – £1 per head of population – would be set aside for parties to mark Prince William’s wedding and the 60th anniversary of his grandmother’s coronation as Queen.

Town councillors’ expenses will rise from £100 in 2009 to £2,500 this year, including an allocation of £2,000 for training, if the budget is approved.

Council deputy chairman Penny Reid said: “We realise that we want to grow and take on more things and be a can-do council, and we will need training and support to allow us to do that.

“I was encouraged by the process we went through, because we came to a mutual understanding that what we wanted to do was for all parties to work together positively and effectively for the best interests of the town.

“The budget is a multi-party document, and I hope we can go forward as a town council and give some leadership to the town, with a budget that has been thought out and has been properly discussed.”

The rise in the services section of the budget, from £28,000 to £231,500, will allow the town council to take over responsibility from the county council for assets such as war memorials, play areas, allotments, public seats, bus shelters, the market square, seasonal lighting, a summer fair and bulb-planting.

The services budget now includes £45,000 to be spent on tackling flooding of the town’s allotments, as well as £6,000 for inspection, maintenance and cleaning of war memorials.

Coun Alisdair Gibbs-Barton, pictured, said: “Last year, this town lost Guardsman Michael Sweeney, and it took six months to get his name put on the war memorial.

“I hope it doesn’t happen again, but we should be able to get names onto these memorials in a matter of weeks, not months.

“We should take pride in the people of Blyth who have given their lives.”

A kitty of £35,000 – a tenth of the council’s budget for the year – has also been earmarked for a summer fair and other events to celebrate the royal wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton in April and the Queen’s diamond jubilee in June.