Mid Sussex council tax rise supported

Council tax bill
Council tax bill

People in Mid Sussex can expect to pay £4.95 a year extra on the district’s portion of their council tax bills.

The 3.1 per cent rise will see that portion of the bill increase from £160.56 to £165.51 for a Band D home.

The increase was given the nod at a meeting of the district council’s cabinet on Monday night and will go to full council for debate and approval at the end of the month.

Similar rises have been planned each year until 2022/23.

Sussex Police have already announced a £24 rise, and West Sussex County Council is expected to up its share by more than £65, so the total increase will be around £95 to the average bill.

Members were told that the budget for 2018/19 looks set to be underspent by £396,000, thanks largely to income brought in from planning fees, pay and display car parks and property rents.

A number of projects have been lined up to receive extra money.

If approved by full council, there will be £150,000 for the Burgess Hill Fibre Exchange – a gigabit-speed broadband project which is to also receive £2.2m of government funding. Mid Sussex was one of 13 areas chosen for the £95m programme.

The meeting was told that the money was needed to pay for legal and commercial services before the grant money was received.

Some £120,000 will be put into a parks improvements specific reserve to cover the cost of recycling bins in key parks, the council’s parks asset management plan, and planning costs for a number of sites.

There will also be £70,000 to refresh the council’s car park strategy, which has to be done by 2020/21.

Revenue spending for 2019/20 has been set at £13.6m, compared to £13.9m in 2018/19. It is expected to rise gradually to £15.2m in 2022/23.

The committee was advised that the council had not made sufficient allowances for any budget cuts which may come from West Sussex County Council, which could potentially land the district with extra costs.

As with every council, there was also uncertainty about the government’s Fair Funding Review, which will determine how much money is received by each local authority.

Members were told it could have a ‘profound effect on the budget’.

Council leader Garry Wall said there were clearly ‘some challenges coming down the line’ but described the draft budget as ‘very positive’.

He added: “This council has not sat on its hands. It has not shirked responsibility in finding financial strength and a backbone for delivering services.

“We’ve continued to deliver excellent value for money to the taxpaying residents, who would expect nothing less of us, and we still retain that position as the third lowest council tax authority in East and West Sussex.”

Deputy leader Jonathan Ash-Edwards added: “We began this decade receiving around £6m of government grant ever year. That’s now at zero.

“We haven’t, in response to that, taken the approach of cutting services but in fact of making sure this council’s finances are in the strongest possible position.”

Norman Webster (Con, East Grinstead – Baldwins) said: “We are investing in and growing rather than reducing and I’m personally very proud of that.”