Council tax bills could rise by another £45

Council tax bills are set to rise again in 2017
Council tax bills are set to rise again in 2017

Average council tax bills paid by West Sussex households could rise by at least another £45 next year.

Earlier this year West Sussex County Council increased its precept by 3.95 per cent, which including the two per cent charge announced by then Chancellor George Osborne in November 2015 to help fund adult social care.

This meant an extra £45.90 a year for a Band D property, and followed six years of council tax freezes by the county council.

As it looks to put together its budget for 2017/18, the county council is looking to bridge a £30.7m funding gap.

The authority warned that since increases in council tax are built into central Government assumptions about how services will be funded, it is ‘expected’ that a council tax rise of 3.95 per cent will be ‘reluctantly proposed’.

Louise Goldsmith, leader of the county council, said: “This will be another extremely challenging year for us, but we have always been determined to protect the services that make the most difference to our residents.

“But as well as our ongoing drive to look for efficiencies in everything we do, it is also vital that we continue to invest in services for the benefit of our residents.

“We know there is significant demand for school places so £23.9m has been identified to provide an additional 1,600 places for 2017 – 1,445 in primary schools and 150 in secondary schools.

“This will help accommodate the growing number of children in the county and will contribute towards one of our key priorities of giving children the best start in life.

“On average we supplement the government grant received for the provision of school places by almost 20 per cent to ensure that we have sufficient places to meet the needs of our young people. Over the past six years this has amounted to just over £30m.”

She continued: “We have carefully considered the views of the public through our ‘What Matters to You’ survey when setting this budget and deciding on our priorities.

“The top priority was ‘keeping you safe’ and that is why we are so proud of our integrated Fire and Rescue Service and why we must fight to ensure it remains under our control.

“The second priority was ‘education and schools’ which is why our investment in school places is so important and why we are continuing to fight for fairer funding for our schools as we wait for the implementation of a new national funding formula.”

The next Full Council meeting a Chichester’s County Hall on Friday December 16 will hear about the measures proposed to balance the 2017/18 budget, including the use of £9.2m of reserves and £16.2m in planned savings across a number of service areas of the council.

Members will hear about efficiencies and savings which are proposed to bridge a £30.7m budget gap for 2017/18, as well as an investment of £23.9m to provide places for children in schools.

The proposals are subject to the Government’s financial settlement, which is expected in the next few weeks, and will confirm the expected funding allocation to the County Council for 2017/18.

Members of the county council will meet again next year on February 17 to formally agree the final budget and the level of council tax.

Mrs Goldsmith added: “We will continue to look for efficiencies in everything we do, and no stone will be left unturned to ensure we get the best value for money for our taxpayers.”

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