‘Challenging’ time for underfunded council

Tim Lloyd, council vice-chairman and chairman of the finance committee
Tim Lloyd, council vice-chairman and chairman of the finance committee
  • Nominations for 15 seats close today
  • The parish council continues to be underfunded
  • Well below recommended 50 per cent of precept in reserves

THE new Steyning Parish Council will face a challenging four years in office.

Nominations for the 15 seats close today and if the election is contested, the poll will take place on Thursday, May 7, to coincide with the general and district elections.

The task in the next few years is for all committees and councillors to be creative to find ways in which the council can build up its reserves

Tim Lloyd, current vice-chairman of the council and chairman of the finance and community committee

Tim Lloyd, current vice-chairman of the council and chairman of the finance and community committee, said the new council would face a battle to balance the books but it would be ‘in better shape than ever before to carry on its business’.

“The council has been and, continues to be, underfunded and we are well below the recommended 50 per cent of the precept in reserves,” he said.

“The task in the next few years is for all committees and councillors to be creative to find ways in which the council can build up its reserves.”

In the financial year 2014/15, the parish council received a 22 per cent reduction in the Council Tax Benefit grant from Horsham District Council.

There has been a further 30 per cent reduction in the grant for 2015/16 but the committee chairmen have remained within budget, ensuring there was no increase in the precept for the coming year.

Mr Lloyd added: “This will be challenging and to this end, all committees will have to monitor and review spending very closely indeed in the next financial year.”

One money-making idea that has proved extremely successful is the community cinema that was launched at the Steyning Centre. This will bring in an estimated £4,000 to £6,000 in income in the next financial year.

“This will go a long way to help the Steyning Centre, which is our major asset, to become profitable,” said Mr Lloyd.

He said the council had faced many financial challenges over the last four years, including litigation costs over the proposed skate park, the taking over of the youth service and, more recently, the Neighbourhood Plan.

But the finance committee had also overhauled most of its procedures and protocols, and it had prepared a draft business plan to take the council forward over the next five years.