The town council set its budget for the year at a full council meeting on Monday, January 20. Councillors agreed a budget of £917,935. The 17 per cent increase in the budget means Barnstaple residents in Band D properties will pay £131.62 to the town council for the year - an increase of £21. Town clerk Rob Ward said the increase was part of a 'clear vision' for the next five years, which includes maximising its assets such as Rock Park, the Guildhall and St Anne's Arts and Community Centre, and providing services and funds that will be of value to the local community. "It might be seen as a big increase, but in context of the total council tax bill it is only a small increase," said Mr Ward. "We are very conscientious the people of Barnstaple need to see the benefit. "It is critical they understand where money is going, and we are trying to be as transparent as we can be. The council will set up a Strategic Community Fund, which can be drawn on by local charities which provide vital services for residents. It will begin a maintenance schedule for its assets, including the Guildhall, to keep them in good condition. The council also has plans to take on the upkeep and maintenance of Rock Park, and engage with the community to improve its planted areas. Mr Ward said: "Our income comes mostly from the people of Barnstaple. Our focus is investing that money into the town." Another key part of the council's work over the coming year will be starting the Barnstaple neighbourhood plan. Mayor of Barnstaple, Councillor Alan Rennles, said: "Barnstaple Town Council is always listening to the views of local people and wants to be able to respond in a way that makes a difference to their lives. "In 2020, we will be starting to work on our neighbourhood plan which will be an opportunity for local people to have a say on how Barnstaple grows and develops in the future and what services the town should have. "It will be an opportunity to bring more funds in to the town to be invested on new facilities for our residents."