Published: 14:10, 02 October 2020
| Updated: 14:12, 02 October 2020
A new office for council staff in Walmer would be an investment for residents at the cost of an increase in tax, it has been warned.
The majority of Walmer Parish Council members agree the current leased office in The Strand brings no long term benefit to parishioners, as well as being too small and lacking in privacy.
It was therefore agreed at an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday to move forward with a proposal to borrow £250,000 to buy 62 The Strand - a terraced house about 300m along the road, next door to Whits of Walmer restaurant.
But the replacement premises comes at a cost of an 11% precept rise for ratepayers, an equivalent to 10.5p a week or £5.42 a year extra on a Band D property, which currently pays £48.66 a year.
Dover District Council member for Walmer, Cllr Chris Vinson, has warned that residents should be aware of this extra expenditure and make their views known.
He said: "Bizarrely, this new office will cost at least £10,000 more each year than the current £6,000 annual lease.
"Even more bizarre, the office they plan to buy doesn’t have any rooms big enough to hold Parish Council meetings! So they will have to find an alternative at additional cost to the public.
'I’m certain the residents of Walmer will make their views known'
"Worst of all - to pay back this loan they will need to put up their precept in Walmer residents’ council tax bill.
"If you don’t like the sound of that then fear not. If they can’t demonstrate public support, the government can’t give them the loan.
"I’m certain the residents of Walmer will make their views known."
A month-long public consultation has now been launched and every household should receive a letter explaining their intentions.
Defending the move, Cllr Mike Eddy said: "While we have been able to work well in our present one roomed office, it is rented and every penny of ratepayers money which we spend on it for rent or maintenance brings no long term benefit to Walmer ratepayers.
“Since we have been there, we have already spent some £65,000 on rent and making the room fit for purpose and if we see out the remaining seven years of the lease it will be at least another £42,000 gone forever.
"By purchasing a property, the money will stay within Walmer and it will be a community owned asset rather than a drain on our financial resources."
Council chairman James Murray said: "Councillors are sensitive to the fact that they are elected by local people to make decisions and to do what they think is best for the parish.
"Interestingly if this increase is accepted our ratepayers will be still paying less per household than Deal and around half the amounts that Sandwich and Guston residents contribute."
He believes the new offices could become a "real community facility" with suggestions of supporting local entrepreneurs and small start-up businesses.
He says others want to see a community mini hub with art exhibitions and meeting rooms for small groups.