THE amount of money people in Stratton need to pay towards their council tax will remain the same for the fourth year in a row.

Back in 2019, auditors highlighted major concerns about Stratton St Margaret Parish Council’s financial records in an internal document which got leaked to the Adver.

The catalogue of problems included unaccounted-for VAT, no risk management strategy, the 2018/19 budget being miscalculated by around £220,000, and so many missing invoices, purchase orders and approvals that the amount of outstanding debt could not be identified.

At the time, the area’s representatives promised to address the many issues the report raised.

Last week, as the parish council prepared to agree the council tax precept for 2022/23, which again totals £1,369,964, councillors praised their regained financial stability.

Coun Tim Page said: “I would like to thank Amy and the team for their hard work – particularly with the accounts, which have been great. 

“They have done a tremendous job and we are in a very different situation to a few years ago when our finances were, ah, less than perfect.

“We can now face the auditors without soiling ourselves.”

Coun Barrie Jenkins confirmed that, despite the complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the amount they will ask the people of Swindon’s largest parish to pay – an average £187.98 a year per household – will not need to be increased.

He added: “The finance team have done an excellent job putting this together. After two years of Covid and one year of intense inflation, the fact that we have frozen the precept to the same as the last three years is an excellent contribution to people’s wellbeing and I’m very proud that we have done it.

”Councillors voted unanimously to approve the budget.

One last bit of accounts tidying-up required the writing-off of some outstanding balances from 2018/19 which have been left in the parish’s financial software.

Coun Page added: “It won’t make any difference to our financial standing, our reserves are healthy enough to have them taken off.

“They were left over from when our accounts were not being run properly, during the leisure centre ownership transfer [from the parish council to Parkwood], and are not recoverable. 

“The accounts will now be much cleaner. Writing these off will remove any reason to question our historic accounts.”