THE Salisbury City parish poll cost taxpayers nearly £40,000 - more than double what was projected.

At a meeting held in the Guildhall on March 15, voters were told that the poll is likely to cost £18,000, but it was the first of its kind.

This estimate was based on the average cost of parish polls elsewhere.

However, on Thursday, May 25, it was revealed that the poll has cost Salisbury City Council £39,627.57.

While residents and city councillors called for a poll to be held, it was conducted by Wiltshire Council.

Read more: ​Salisbury Parish Poll: 4 per cent voted in council tax referendum

The poll was held on April 20, where 992 people voted yes, 206 people voted no, and four people spoiled their ballot papers.

This means each vote cost around £33.

Conservative councillor Eleanor Wills, for Harnham West, was part of the group behind the poll.

Salisbury Journal: Cllr Eleanor Wills.Cllr Eleanor Wills. (Image: Salisbury City Council)

The Journal asked whether Cllr Wills would have still backed the poll if she had known it would cost almost £40k and she said: "Yes. However, to be clear, going into this we did not know the cost of the poll.

"You cannot put a price on democracy."

A similar poll has just been held in Trowbridge which had a 1.6 per cent turnout and will allegedly cost the town council between £20,000 and £30,000.

When asked if she thought residents had been misled or lied to, she said "no", adding: "The whole point is that we put forward the poll itself and said this is what we're likely to do.

"It wasn't for us to work with Wiltshire Council on the cost because we're not the elected officers.

"The vote didn't include anything on cost."

Are you shocked at the final cost?

Cllr Wills responded: "I would say surprised in terms of the cost.

"There's a referendum coming up and lessons need to be learnt."

Yet, the turnout of 1,202, 3.92 per cent of the electorate, was a "milestone moment for Salisbury", according to Cllr Wills.

Cllr Wills said her frustration lies with the city council administration, who 'ignored' the poll and 'didn't hand out leaflets' or 'share it on Facebook'.

Independent Cllr Annie Riddle, for Harnham West, said: “For Cllr Wills to blithely dismiss the cost that she and her supporters loaded onto the council by saying ‘You cannot put a price on democracy’ shows that she still has not grasped the financial pressures that necessitated this precept increase in the first place.

“Only this morning, the administration leaders met Cllr Wills and her colleague Cllr Sven Hocking who said they were seeking a better working relationship with us. So her latest remarks are surprising, to put it mildly.”

Lib Dem Cllr Victoria Charleston, for St Pauls, said: "Whilst public engagement should always be a priority, the Parish Poll, orchestrated by Conservative Councillors and a handful of residents cost an astonishing £33 per voter.

"Some hard choices will now have to be made about how the City Council pays for this bill and what we cannot do as funds will need to be diverted - which is ironic given this was all about the management of budgets."