Cost of council tax freezes mounts up

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CONTINUING to freeze council tax could force Adur District Council to find savings of more than £4million in five years’ time, a report has revealed.

Reducing support from central government will make it increasingly difficult for the authority to resist upping the tax, as it has for an historic five years.

Council officers estimate extending the policy could lead to a shortfall of £4.5million in 2020/21 – £576,000 more than if residents faced two per cent yearly increases.

A council spokesman said it was committed to keeping council tax low and had found various savings to compensate.

He said: “The councils have worked hard to find savings over the past five years by sharing services, reviewing senior management costs and ensuring that services are being delivered as efficiently as possible.

“We will continue to seek further efficiency savings but inflationary pressures are such that we cannot commit to freezing council tax forever.”

The council has managed to absorb the costs of freezing council tax – and once cutting it – over the past five years, with the government partially compensating it for doing so under a nationwide grants scheme.

But the level of support has reduced and is expected to further decrease.

A rise of more than two per cent would currently trigger the need for the council to hold a referendum.

A two per cent increase, as budgeted for in a report to the Joint Strategic Committee last week, would equate to an extra 21p per week for a Band D property.

Any increase would require approval from cabinet members.

In recognition of the expected financial pressures, the council is working to become ‘master of its own destiny’, moving to a position where the reliance on council tax and grants from the Government is significantly reduced by the end of the decade.

As part of this approach, the council hopes to improve its approach to bidding for grants from national and international funds.

Improving online services and making them more efficient is another aim.

The spokesman said: “(We are aiming for) a far more strategic approach to identifying – and winning –development growth grant bids from national and international funds, allowing the councils to achieve more for the benefit of their communities without using core funds from council tax.

“An example here would be the monies secured for the Adur Tidal Walls project and sustainable transport improvement package for Worthing through the Regional Growth Fund.”

The spokesman said another example of such an approach was the way that the council ‘proactively evaluated its need for a civic centre’, releasing the site as a key development opportunity and working in partnership with other organisations on the new civic presence.

Transforming customer complaints in order to make service improvements was also highlighted by the spokesman.

n What do you think? Would you accept council tax rises if front line services were under three? Email letters to letters@shorehamherald.co.uk