A clean bill of health has been given to Marlborough Town Council’s finances by independent auditor Nigel Archer, the council’s finance and policy committee will be told on Monday.
The auditor’s overall conclusion to an eight-page survey states: “We are pleased to report that no major issues have been identified during the course of our visits or the year – any matters arising have been discussed with officers and details have been embodied in the text of the detailed report for members’ attention accordingly.”
And as the committee prepares to consider its annual statement of accounts for the past financial year, chairman Councillor Andrew Ross declared: “I am even more pleased that we have produced a small surplus this year of £18,000 and brought our reserves back over the £300,000 mark, a level that is suitable for a town council of our size.
“At no stage during my five years as finance chairman has the independent auditor ever issued any warnings. We are clean as a whistle, in the pink, which is exactly what I expect.”
But Councillor Ross, an retired accountant, warned once again that many Marlborough residents held the misguided belief that the council had far greater powers than it did and an annual income far in excess of the £400,000 it basically receives from its precept plus income from property letting.
The sum is but seven per cent of the total council tax levied by Wiltshire Council, which has a budget of £800 million, plus the precepts charged by the police and fire services in the county.
“Unfortunately too many people believe we have powers way beyond the ones we hold as a town council,” he pointed out. “We are basically managing just a small proportion of the town and have but two spending committees.
“The vast majority of our expenditure is used on maintaining the green areas in the town and the fabric of the town hall. And we have a modest staff that runs the administration as well as five groundsmen.”
The accounts show that income from letting the town hall has risen from £25,000 to £31,000 and it is hoped that this will increase if planned regular film shows go ahead this year.
Councillor Ross also referred to the controversy over a proposed £l million programme to upgrade the town hall by way of taking a low interest rate government loan repayable over 50 years. However, this was just an illustration of action the town council could consider.
“It was basically an example of what possibly could have been done if the project was undertaken in one hit,” he explained. “Had it been accomplished, it would have actually saved the council money.
“But it never ever was approved as town council policy and people have been mislead into thinking it was.”