TOWN councillors in Dorchester are hoping to keep their share of the council tax increase below one per cent from April – compared to the 5% Dorset Council is likely to impose.

But some fees and charges may have to rise in the county town, although these will also be largely kept to between 2 and 5%.

Town councillors heard on Monday evening that the council had suffered a loss of income during the year because of Covid restrictions with the Municipal Buildings complex being almost completely closed since March.

The town management committee heard that initial estimates suggest that the council might be able to manage to maintain services with an increase in its precept (share of council tax) of 0.8 per cent.

Cllr Molly Rennie said that while she welcomed the low increase it might be better to consider a slightly bigger rise as she could see the town council facing  many requests to offer financial help to organisations and events once the mass immunisation programme was completed later in the year.

Policy committee chair Cllr Susie Hosford said the low increase being suggested was in recognition than many residents might be in financial difficulties and that inflation was now very low. She said the council has initially looked at a rise of two per cent, but believed it might now be able to manage with less.

Other savings during the year had come from the council’s twinning budget, with no overseas visits, or incoming groups, able to take place, although there had been a drop in income from building hire and the council's share of market income.

Proposals for the coming year show a reduction of £47,000 in Municipal Buildings income because of the expected transfer of the management of the building to Dorchester Arts along with a reduction of £63,000 in income from the buildings. A balancing sum of £16,000 is expected to be paid to the arts group to make the switch over cost neutral.

Additional planned items of expenditure in the coming year include £7,000 for refurbishing the south face of the town’s War Memorial; £3,000 for works on play area gates and fences; £3,000 for wayfinder signs in the town and £6,000 towards the cost of the proposed move out of the existing North Square offices.

A final decision on the town council’s share of the council tax will be made later in the year.