County council recommends tax freeze – but police bill goes up

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West Sussex County Council’s Cabinet has voted to recommend a freeze on council tax for the fourth year in a row.

The Cabinet met on Tuesday (January 28) to discuss the budget for 2014/15 and its decision will be put to a meeting of the full county council on Friday February 14.

If approved, the average Band D council tax bill will be £1,161.99 for all services delivered by the county council.

Still to be added to that figure will be the amounts required by individual district or borough councils, Sussex Police, and town or parish councils.

Michael Brown, the county council’s Cabinet member for finance, said: “I am delighted that we will be asking the council to freeze council tax again.

“It means that local taxpayers will be paying the same in council tax until the 31st of March 2015 that they were on April 1st, 2010.

“We recognise that times are hard for many households, and as a council we have a duty to help them if we possibly can.”

Cabinet members were told the proposed budget was set against a background of ‘continuing austerity in the public finances, and means the county council must continue to plan for much reduced resources’.

The reductions include £141million of cuts over the next four years, which follow the £79million of cuts already made by the council.

Cllr Brown added: “At this stage, we have produced a two-year savings plan for both the next financial year and 2015/16 totalling £55 million.

“However, there is a lot of good news in this budget, not least the significant investment of £15 million in improving our unclassified road network with more to follow in 2015/16.

“There is also growth money of £6.25 million for the adults’ budget and £1.1 million for the National Concessionary Fares scheme to reflect the growth in numbers of people eligible for free bus travel.”

The budget also includes a provisional £54 million for primary and secondary school basic needs projects – allowing schools to expand to help deal with rising pupil numbers.

Council leader Louise Goldsmith said: “An enormous amount of work has gone into the budget, we continue to deliver a wide range of services, and in the much needed area of adults’ services are increasing funding to meet growing demands.

“In the future, the county council will focus on three key areas – Start of Life, the Economy and Later Life.

“We know that West Sussex is a great place to live, work and rest and the council has an important role to play in helping to maintain that, which is why we are changing to a commissioning model to meet the demands of our residents for today and tomorrow.”

Sussex Police has included an increase of 3.6 per cent in its budget, meaning an extra £4.95 increase in the annual Band D bill.

The increase – the first in four years – will see the police part of the Band D bills rise to £138.42 and will generate £2.8million.

Cllr Chris Dowling, vice-chairman of the Sussex Police and Crime Panel, said: “Agreeing a budget that will increase council tax for residents at a time when councils are working tirelessly to prevent any rise was a very difficult decision for the panel to make and one that wasn’t taken lightly.”