IMPROVEMENTS to Otley town centre and millennium celebrations will be part funded out of a rise in the parish precept from April 1.

The town council has increased its annual charges to residents slightly less than last year by 8.3 per cent, or just over 3p a week, in order to raise £124,500.

And it plans to use the money towards improvement schemes for the town centre, an increase in hours for the town's community development officer and for millenniumm celebrations.

It means the town council's share of the council tax bill for the average band D household will rise by £1.79 from £24.66 for the year 1997/98 to £26.45 for the coming year- or a total bill of around 50p a week.

At Monday's town council meeting, council leader, councillor Sue Egan said it was a modest increase that would benefit the town.

The money would be used towards the planned improvement of the trianglular piece of land outside the Midland Bank in Crossgate and a joint project, the Conservation Area Partnership (CAP) for the renovation of the Market Square.

Coun Egan said: "The area outside the Midland Bank is an important area for the town right next to the bus station, we also thought it was important for us to put money into the CAP scheme."

Money had also been allocated towards the furthering of millennium projects in the town and also for the expansion of the hours put in by the town's community development officer Julia Johnson.

Coun Egan added: "£2,000 will be put towards the millennium in the coming year to help with the practicalities in arranging the celebrations.

"Our community development worker is not new, but she has made an excellent contribution to community work in the town and together with Leeds Council we are looking to significantly increase her hours by more than doubling them from ten hours to 26 hours."

Coun John Eveleigh (Lab) said he was sure people in Otley would think they were getting a very good deal.

"For 50p a week, I think this council is cheap at half the price and it is such good value."

There are 700 houses in Otley in the highest A band, 2,049 in band B, 1,653 in band C, 875 in band D, 470 in band E, 138 in band F, 53 in band G and four in band H. Last year, the council raised the precept by 11 per cent in order to pay for improvements to the Civic Centre, an increase in financial support to worthy groups and the setting up of a community service.

The new precept will help provide:

l £2,000 towards the improvement of the Midland Bank Triangle

l £2,000 towards the planning of millennium celebrations

l £3,000 towards the joint Otley Town Partnership and Leeds City Council Conservation Area Partnership (CAP) scheme for the repair of historic buildings.

l £3,000 to increase the hours of the community development worker, Julia Johnson.

The council is to look at the way it presents its budget proposals next year after coun Gerard Francis (Con) asked if councillors could be given more time to look through the figures before being asked to comment on them.

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