Blakeney Parish Council’s Finance Committee, which has the very difficult task of budgeting for the village expenditure and income, met recently to discuss its budget position in the current year and looking forward to 2020/21 and beyond. The Council needs an element of reserves so that we are able to cope not only with unexpected events but simply to continue to provide the level of services and maintenance that is required in the village each year, levels that our parishioners have come to expect and our income is spent on things of benefit to the village. For example, repairs are planned to the village hall car park, upkeep is needed to the BMX track, repairs are needed to The Carnser and so the list goes on. We need to maintain the village so that it is one we are all proud to live in through planned maintenance and grass cutting. And, of course, we are pleased to offer local organisations the opportunity to benefit from funding from our Community Fund as well as offer “fun” events such as the Party on the Pastures and the end of season Bonfire & Fireworks Event, which bring in hundreds of people and thus generate additional income for the village as a whole.
All this outlay needs income so that the books are balanced. The reality is that this is becoming more and more difficult each year and the Council considered the various income streams. The easiest way for us to increase our income is of course to up the Precept by a few thousand pounds (this is your Council Tax), but whilst we have other options then we must consider those first as they do not come from the pockets of the council tax payers in this village. Our village is enjoyed by thousands of people each year in addition to the residents and whilst we are fortunate in that we have other income options, it also automatically means more outlay; it is in many ways a double edged sword. This year, we have benefited from some small grants through the partnership funding scheme, but by far the greatest part of our income comes from the Carnser Car Park. Figures show that the amount of revenue raised from the car park in recent years is reduced on earlier years and, of course, that impacts on what can be spent on village needs and legal requirements.
Traditionally, August has seen the arrival of Gray’s funfair. The Council is very mindful that many villagers look forward to its arrival. Many remember previous visits by the fair with nostalgia, particularly when it was able to bring large numbers of rides and other attractions. But in recent years, the size of the fair has been much reduced.
The Council is elected to represent the interests of all villagers on many varied matters every year, not all of them are easy discussions and it takes a dedicated person to take on the voluntary role of a Parish Councillor, and the Council was very mindful that numbers of villagers regard the fair as something of an inconvenience. Its presence means that much of the Carnser Car Park is out of action and this has an effect on the Council’s revenue. It also means that the three trading units cannot operate, all of this at peak season, when opportunities should not be dismissed lightly. All told, the fact that the fair is using the Carnser means a loss of income of about £5,000. This is a lot of money, from which the village could benefit. Added to this is the fact that the funfair pays rent of £639, this figure has not risen for 13 years and is not sustainable.
The Council was faced with a very difficult decision, but still it was a decision that had to be made and it was made with the best interests of the public purse and best value. We recognised the importance of the fair to many villagers, but also needed to be mindful of the fact that many other villagers do not want it to come at all. The Council must seek to equally represent the interests of all villagers.
We believed that tradition must be respected and that the fair should be given the opportunity to continue to visit. But the views of the significant number of villagers who do not wish the fair to be on the Quay because of the inconvenience caused, as well as the detrimental effect on village finances, meant that it would be most appropriate to offer the fair use of The Pastures. The rent would remain at £639 and, arguably, The Pastures is a better site with free parking opposite and within easy sight of passing traffic on the A149, which should attract more passing trade for the fair.
The fair has used The Pastures previously as part of the Parish Council Party on the Pastures and we have arranged for a site visit to look at the area and assess its suitability, thus we feel that the decision made, should be beneficial to all parties and the village as a whole.
2nd December 2019