Archive for January, 2020

Consultation Meetings for Town Centre Masterplan

Knutsford Town Council is launching a consultation on proposals for changes to Town Centre Traffic and Parking arrangements as the first stage of developing a Town Centre Masterplan.

The council’s Town Centre Masterplan Working Group, which comprises local residents, businesses and councillors, has prepared proposals for a limited-vehicle access scheme for the Town Centre. The scheme aims to reduce the volume of traffic on King and Princess Streets whilst maintaining access to all homes, businesses and car parks.

The bold proposals include creating new pedestrian squares at Canute Place and outside Lost and Found on Princess Street as well as the development of well-designed multi-storey car parks to increase parking. The proposals also include creating an access to Princess Street directly from the A50 through the car park behind Waitrose.

Town Clerk, Adam Keppel-Green said, “These proposals form the first part of developing an overall master plan for Knutsford Town Centre with the overriding aim of ensuring we have a town centre which continues to flourish. These proposals focus on the mechanics of the town centre, and future work on the masterplan will look at issues such as pavement and road surfaces”

Public consultation events are being held on Tuesday 4th February (6:30pm) and Wednesday 5th February (2pm) in Knutsford Methodist Church. Town Centre residents and businesses were invited to preview the proposals at events held this week and the Town Council hopes to engage as many stakeholders as possible to garner their views on the proposals.

The consultation commences on Wednesday 5th February when full details will be published on the Town Council website. The consultation runs to March 13th.

You can view the consultation page here: Town Centre Masterplan Consultation

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Town Council Precept Increase

Knutsford Town Council is aware of the recent comments in the Knutsford Guardian concerning the council’s 2020/21 budget and precept (our share of the council tax) and wishes to provide additional clarity on the changes and answer some people’s concerns.

What is the change?

The Town Council sets an annual precept which is collected as part of Council Tax. In 2019 this cost a Band D taxpayer £64 per year and in 2020 this will increase to £88. This is an increase of £24 over 12 months.

This change sees the council collect £511,118 from council tax, a £140,048 increase on the 2019 figure of £371,070.

How did the Belle Epoque affect the budget?

La Belle Epoque Limited was a tenant at 60 King Street, a property owned by the Town Council. Under the lease, which was agreed with the former tenant the council was required to undertake the maintenance of the building which owing to its age and listed-status was significant and on-going.

The former tenant, La Belle Epoque Limited is now in liquidation; the company entered this owing the Town Council just over £67,000, primarily for legal fees incurred by the Town Council in seeking to enforce the lease. Towards the end of the tenancy La Belle Epoque Limited had been failing to pay rent on time for almost three years and had been frustrating the council’s ability to undertake essential maintenance. While the Town Council took no pleasure in terminating the lease with the company we did so in the long-term interests of our taxpayers.

The short term consequence of the termination is that the council has incurred additional costs; including paying for the removal of the rubbish and furniture left by the tenant, additional maintenance of the vacant building as well as the costs involved in obtaining a new tenant. These have been in the region of £19,000. The Town Council had also spent just over £46,000 from its general reserve fund in the 2018 financial year to cover the cost of scheduled maintenance which it planned to cover from the 2019 rent. In total this left our year end position with a combined deficit of £132,000.

The Town Council took the decision to forfeit the lease with a view to securing a new tenant on better terms. The Town Council is currently considering bids from three prospective tenants and under all options the tenant will be responsible for the maintenance of the building; rather than the next five years seeing the council make no surplus on the property (as we would have under the old lease), we anticipate that our 2021 budget will see a surplus that would allow the council to reduce the precept.

In addition, the Town Council’s Finance Committee will be looking at reviewing the council’s reserves policies with a view to ensuring that the council’s reserves can better accommodate any future changes in tenant without needing to rely on a precept increase.

Why increase the staff budget?

The Town Council’s staff budget has increased by around £50,000 for 2020. £20,000 of this is covered by the income from Knutsford Cemetery which the Town Council became responsible for in January and this funds the administration and maintenance of the cemetery.

During 2019 the Town Council undertook a root and branch review of its staffing. This resulted in the creation of a separate Events Officer role (previously combined in other roles) to provide  better management of the organisation of the council’s events programme and an increase in the number of hours for our Town Ranger so he can spend more time out and about tackling the small jobs that matter to residents. The new staffing structure ensures that the council has the staff it needs to deliver the varied services we provide to the Knutsford community.

What does the Town Council do for £88?

Here’s just a few of the things we do for the £88 charged to a Band D property the Town Council:

  • Provides funding support to local charities and community groups
  • Funds the provision of the Citizens Advice service in Knutsford
  • Provides public toilets, allotments, the market hall, a cemetery and Wallwood
  • Will be renovating/creating gardens behind Booths Supermarket and around the Chelford Road Obelisk
  • Will be undertaking reviews of the town Conservation Areas to ensure our heritage is preserved
  • Organises the Bunny Hop, Pumpkin Path, Music Festival, Christmas Lights and Christmas Market to help keep our town thriving
  • Will be organising a street party on the Moor to celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day

Statement from the Mayor

Town Mayor, Cllr Andrew Malloy said “As taxpayers ourselves, councillors are of course very conscious of the impact of any rise on our residents. We know that a 37% increase sounds dramatic but encourage residents to consider the pounds and pence – this increase is £24.07 over 12 months, or 46p per week”

“Whilst it is too early to prepare our 2021 budget, I can say that we have the intention to reduce the precept next year and we fully expect we will be able to”

 “As well as seeking to secure increased net income from 60 King Street, the council is looking to reduce the costs of operating its public toilets and looking to secure tenants for new commercial spaces it is creating within the buildings”

“We welcome scrutiny of our budget, which is available on our website, and invite residents with queries about any aspect of the budget to contact our Town Clerk.”

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Town Council takes back Knutsford Cemetery

Cllrs Jan Nicholson and Andrew Malloy

Knutsford Town Council marked the turn of the new year by becoming a burial authority as Knutsford Cemetery returned to local control; this followed a review of options which took place in September 2018 when the council decided to terminate the service agreement with Cheshire East Council.

The five-acre site on Tabley Road opened in January 1902 and whilst it had been managed by Cheshire East Council and the former Macclesfield Borough Council since 1974 the ownership of the site has always been held by Knutsford Town Council.

“Our aim is to have a place of remembrance in which we can all commemorate, remember and spend time with our loved ones, a place which the community can be truly proud of and we believe the town council is best placed to deliver this.”

Cllr Andrew Malloy, Mayor of Knutsford

During 2020 the council will be introducing a number of changes as part of ambitious plans to make the cemetery the best in Cheshire. The council’s plans include:

  • Installation of new bins across the cemetery to make it easier for visitors to dispose of on-site waste
  • Creation of new flower beds at the entrance to the cemetery
  • Installing additional benches to provide a place for visitors to sit and reflect
  • Planting trees to replace those which have been felled in the past
  • Re-standing fallen grave stones
  • Removing the existing ‘road blocks’ made with old grave stones and replacing them with flower planters

A new part-time post of Cemetery Groundskeeper has been created and will start in March with the mission of ensuring the cemetery is continually well cared for. On top of the essential maintenance the groundskeeper will be levelling lawns and tackling areas which have been overtaken by weeds. The groundskeeper will help the council minimise costs and cut carbon emissions by composting all green waste generated at the cemetery, creating compost which will be used on site.

The transfer of the cemetery operation is being delivered at no cost to the Knutsford taxpayer as costs are forecast to be covered by the fees charged for burials.

“We have been exploring the options on how best to manage the cemetery for a number of years and with it now back under direct town council control we are looking forward to making improvements and maintaining a quality cemetery for our residents”

Cllr Jan Nicholson, Deputy Chairman of the council’s Assets and Operations Committee and member of the council’s cemetery working group

The council welcomes feedback on all the services it offers and especially suggestions as to how it can work it make the cemetery as welcoming and pleasant as possible. 

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