Over the last few weeks, we have been reviewing our current year’s budget and starting to look at how much it will cost to run Town Council services through the financial year 2023/24. As officers, we have been trying to balance and maintain the current service level again the impact higher rates of inflation are having on all our outgoing costs, and most worrying is the impact on energy bills, especially as many of our buildings are big and drafty. There have been a lot of discussions both nationally and locally about how Councils may need to review what services they provide and the provision of Christmas lights is very topical at this time of year, with towns like Budleigh Salterton in Devon seriously considering not putting up any lights and other such as Guildford having no official switch on. We are committed to providing Christmas lights in Devizes, as we believe it is important to try and maintain an attractive high street, that will hopefully draw in shoppers and visitors to the town centre. All our Christmas decorations use LED lighting which helps us to keep the energy cost to a minimum, which last year was below £100. Ultimately elected members need to agree on the Council’s budget and will start that process at next week’s Full Council meeting.
Whilst talking about Christmas, we met with the new Artistic Directors at DOCA and they are as excited as we are about our annual Christmas parade. We are now in full planning mode for the event, which will be on Friday 25 November. As plans develop, I will keep you updated.
The Shambles is still an important project for the Council and this week we met with Shambles traders to discuss the way forward. At that meeting, it was agreed that there had been too much discussion on the type of business that may be trading in the Shambles in the future, but the Council’s priority should be to create an energy-efficient, versatile space, that is pleasant to visit. That is the recommendation of the working party, which will be going to the Full Council meeting next week and if agreed, will see the project moving forward.
The Council has made no secret about its intention to help support more biodiversity within the way it manages its open spaces, and whilst not everyone has agreed with the way we have delivered this service, we believe it has been successful and many people tell us they do like that we left some areas to go a little wild. Our wider Greening Devizes project is also gaining momentum, with residents wanting to have more responsibility for sections of open space where they live. For us, this is fantastic because the more the community help us the more we can do together. Our project to plant over 100 urban trees this year is still on track; however, the hot summer has meant that nurseries are currently not lifting trees for replanting, but nevertheless, we are hopeful to have over 90 trees planted in the grass verge along Windsor Drive and 6 new container trees in the Market Place before Christmas.
Finally, this week we received a clean audit report from our externally appointed auditors. If you wish to see the full report click here.
Town Clerk, Simon Fisher