WTC Precept 2024-2025

It is around this time of the year that councils set their council tax for the following year. Authorities like North Yorkshire Council have their potential increase capped by government. The same does not apply to town / parish councils, who can do what they feel like seemingly. For 2023-2024 we had Whitby Town Council (WTC) increasing its precept by 21.5%, without even mentioning it to the public.

On 5th Dec 2023, there was a meeting of the WTC Finance Policy and General Purposes Committee discussing a proposal from the town clerk to raise the precept further by, wait for it, 46%! Cue several members of the public who had heard of this expressing their disgust and wondering what value for money the council was providing. We also had a member of the public (councillor) saying that the public need to know what these rises are for (pretty ironic really given that when WCN requested WTC to do this as a matter of policy, it was ignored – seemingly transparency is only valid when it suits).

Note : the meeting venue of Pannett Art Gallery has severe acoustic issues and WTC have previously passed a motion not to hold meetings there until remedying the problems, which they have still not done. The proceedings were hard to hear for many people at this meeting; we can only hope that councillors are not tone deaf to residents requests.

On to the proposals



Increased from £400 to £2900 to facilitate a new website

Staff Costs


Increased from £246k to £258k



Increased from £1.7k to £21.7k to pay for external auditor costs

Neighbourhood Plan


Further costs for a Neighbourhood Plan not yet started




Income from toilets goes down the pan!

Unitary engagement


Further "costs" for double devolution?

Elections / Polls


Payment for 2 town polls


Water costs


Water charge increased from £15k to £43k.

Neighbourhood Plan

An expense of £15k (together with an income of £10k, presumably to simulate the potential receipt of a grant) was included in the budget for 2023-2024 for this. There is a further £15k (together with an income of £5k) in the budget for 2024-2025. Meaning that there will be £15k available for providing the Neighbourhood Plan, which should be enough.

Any subsequently obtained grant will mean that funds are available for use on other items (and hence not necessary to levy the full £15k in the 2024-2025 precept). It should be noted that grants are currently available. Is the WTC clerk applying for a grant, given that we have repeatedly requested this item? If so then he can remove an amount from the 2024-2025 budget.

When the Neighbourhood Plan will even start we still do not know, so to continue to levy charges seems peculiar. Some basic questions have to be answered by the clerk (timescales, grants, start date, etc) before any additional allocation of funding is provided by the public.

Unitary Engagement

The sum of £12.5k was included in the budget for 2023-2024 for participating in “double devolution” (namely taking on some things that NYC currently “manages”, in the case of WTC this is parks). A further £12.5k is allocated in 2024-2025. No information is provided as to what the £12.5k has been spent on, if spent at all. We have to question the need for this funding in the budget – WTC already has £12.5k in its accounts, so as a minimum it should remove the extra £12.5k from the 2024-2025 budget.


The major item of concern. For something that was making profits for a council to suddenly be raised as a major loss maker does suggest a problem with control within the council. Here we have gone through the approved budgets of WTC back to 2019-2020, so we can see the change in income over time, and also the change in expenditure (water cost) over time.

Financial Year

As shown, water costs have seemingly gone up way more than any measure of inflation. You have to question the water costs, and that should start with an inspection of the amounts of water utilised (domestic bills provide info in cubic metres) – has this changed to any degree? What about standing charge? or price per cubic metre? Without basic information like this being provided transparently we cannot help. This should have been monitored on a monthly basis so then they could see where the problem starts, and whether it is simply more water used, or whether the tariff / standing charge is the sole item changed. Was it monitored?

Regarding the commercial water rates market, business water rates increased by an average 14.4% in April 2023. Nowhere have we been able to find any such increase even remotely in line with the increases reported by WTC.

Then you have to look at the income generated (number of customers at 40p a time). How does the number of customers hold up over time across different financial years? Danfo will obviously take a percentage of proceeds as per whatever contract was agreed. Again the utilisation should be have been monitored month-by-month. Was it monitored ?

For WTC to be making such a dramatic loss when Danfo presumably are still making a profit on their contract would be utterly unacceptable, and we would have to question the terms of the contract agreed since, if that assumption is true, it would not seem to be fair and proportionate.

The suggestion from Cllr Jones to increase the charge for toilets is a knee jerk reaction, make them pay! but sadly that is often counter intuitive, and there is a point that people just make use of facilities in cafes, restaurants, yards and alleyways etc for free since their budget is much tighter now. Why not just survey a few local business as to whether their facilities seem to be being used more now?

As an aside, we have been through the WTC agenda packs for 2022-2023, for actual payments to Everflow (for the water costs), and the payments total £31272.16. Similarly for 2021-2022, the payments to Everflow only total £14708.50 (no bills listed for Apr 2021, Jul 2021, Feb 2022, Mar 2022). Were all payments put in front of the WTC committee responsible? We ask that question because the website is often missing minutes. There will always be a difference between the budget and reality, and the charges for water have indeed risen, but there is no information to define the source of that (water usage? standing charge change? price per cubic metre?), and whether the current budget estimate is likely to be remotely representative.


The audit costs are increased from £1.7k to £21.7k for the 2024-2025 budget. A local resident has raised concerns about the accounts for 2022-2023, noting a number of ‘eligible’ Objections (now elevated to Stage 3 by the auditor), identifying a variety of problems with the Annual Governance Statement. The sooner WTC acknowledge the failings and arrange a plan to remedy them the better, and that way an amount of the £20k could be retained for use on things that benefit the town residents.

Staff Costs

The elephant in the room. We aren’t supposed to talk about this, so we will. WTC seemingly employs a clerk, deputy clerk, maintenance supervisor, 2 members of a facilities management team, and the Pannett Art Gallery / Museum Curator. Since the gallery / museum is a separate (charitable) entity, perhaps that should be employing its own staff or, as a minimum, separate the museum on the WTC accounts? Staffing costs have swollen up to £246k currently, with this budgeted to rise to £258k in 2024-2025! This swallows a massive part of the precept. This amounted to 96.2% in 2022-2023 and, by that measure, rated as worst of all town councils in North Yorkshire.

Value for money is clearly not being provided, and the overall staffing cost has to be looked at. For now, we leave it to WTC (and likely more specifically, the Human Resources Committee) to decide how they do that, but current levels are not sustainable. The very idea of getting an extra member of staff to field FOI requests beggared belief when floated, staffing costs should be going down proportionally!

Elections / Polls

There was a town poll in October 2023, and this is estimated to cost the parish £7k. Whilst not every one will agree with the questions that were asked as being of significant importance, the right for residents to have their say is crucial, and so any town / parish council should budget for a town poll each year. WTC has, quite correctly in our opinion, budgeted for a town poll in 2024-2025 just in case, even though there may well not be such a question, the money could always be held in reserve for some future point when the residents do want to have a say.


The current WTC website is from 2018, and is widely regarded as being hard to navigate, as well as often lacking the information needed. There is an additional spend of £2500 proposed to redesign this website. We see the current website as being a significant barrier to transparency, and needs a redesign, and in the grand scheme of things £2500 is not the major problem with the budget.

However, and there is often a however, whilst having a new website that is better organised is very much needed, what is also needed is a desire to be truly open and transparent with the public. Some of the things that have to be addressed if this item is to be pursued

  • Agenda, Draft Minutes, Approved Minutes are hard to find. Sometimes they are not even on the website!
  • Minutes are not added promptly. Having a good website that is out of date is of little use.

Consequently there has also to be a commitment to change practices so that a new website is routinely updated, and a commitment to openness. If there is no commitment to keeping the website up to date and to transparency then the new website would be of little value … like now.

It should be noted that WTC resolved at their full council meeting on 4th July to have the new website fully operational by 31st December 2023. We are not aware of any substantive progress with this.


The current proposed budget showing a 46% increase in precept is utterly unacceptable. It has to be significantly reworked to respect the current financial situation that many people are facing, scaling things back as necessary. At the WTC meeting the budget was not accepted; thanks go to Cllr Turner for initiating the raising of objections to the extent of this rise; we dread to think if the other members of this committee would have just voted this budget through without somebody being willing to stand up for residents.

We have to question the composition of WTC committees where there is no current allowance made for a councillor has experience in matters considered by that committee. It is currently a “popularity contest”, which results in what happened at the 5th December 2023 meeting, with several councillors correctly registering their disapproval, but the ideas for what to do were very limited, with the suggestion of sending an email out to the other councillors (who haven’t been allowed on this committee!) and see what they think could be done to fix the mess they’re in. Given that there was a motion several months ago to attempt to change the way committees are elected (definitely not perfect as it was proposed, but it would have offered different membership) and this was rejected by the current incumbents, then it is indeed ironic that those “more popular” councillors are now needing help. We strongly urge a selection process using people’s skill sets, not who they are mates with!

The problem with the toilets has to be addressed immediately, providing a way that this service can be self-funding and not a burden on the town; a budgeted loss of £30k in a year would be unacceptable.

At the meeting there was an amount of mention of satisfying NYC’s timescales for the budget. As correctly stated at the meeting by a few councillors, NYC have not adequately maintained significant infrastructure in the town for many years (lighting, paths, cliff lift, swing bridge, and on it goes), and so are not really in a position to demand anything. The fact that WTC signed up for a debt of £120k (East Pier footbridge) some years back (unwisely, some say), because SBC had appropriated the harbour money has to make any sane person seriously question the relationship. It has to be said that the overall amount that the precept is proposed to recoup in 2024-2025 is not so dissimilar to the amount that SBC spaffed (£106k) to purchase 19 “talking bins“. Seemingly the public sector has a hard time understanding basic “value for money” concepts.

We look forward to seeing what WTC come back with as a revised 2024-2025 budget, and if they require any suggestions they just need to ask.

It is worth mentioning that some residents of Whitby signed for a Town Assembly, to be held in the Royal Hotel Ballroom, Whitby on Tuesday 19th December at 6pm to discuss the WTC precept (as well as any other issues people wish to raise). We strongly urge people to attend that meeting and have your say; it’s your town and your council tax.

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