Council tax freeze on cards for Adur

COUNCIL tax is set to be frozen for the fourth year in a row, following a meeting of Adur District Council’s cabinet on Tuesday.

Members recommended not to increase the tax by 1.5 per cent, the other alternative put forward by executive head of finance Sarah Gobey.

The decision, which represents a reduction of 11 per cent in real terms over the last four years, will now go before the full council on February 20.

Ms Gobey said the council had ended the last budget round in an ‘amazingly strong position’, as she presented her report to the cabinet at the Civic Centre in Shoreham.

“Given where we started at the start of the year, it is extremely pleasing that we dealt with the original shortfall of £600,000,” she said.

She pointed to a decline in the revenue support grant from Westminster, and said council tax was fast becoming the council’s principal source of income.

“We just simply don’t know what’s going to happen in the future,” she said. “If we have a Government with a very different policy slant then we may see it disappear.”

The cabinet were given the choice between a freeze and a 1.5 per cent increase.

Given the council tax freeze grant, Ms Gobey made it clear that there was little financial sense in increasing the rate by 1.5 per cent.

“Members may want to freeze council tax in light of the difficult circumstance people find themselves in,” she said.

Cllr Angus Dunn supported the recommendation, referring to the rise in the number of people using food banks, and adding that a 1.5 per cent increase would not have made ‘a huge difference’ to the council’s finances this year anyway.

Cllr Julie Searle said: “We have very much struggled for many years coming up with what we do and what we manage with.

“Big thanks go to the staff for pulling it out of the bag, time and time again, and coming up with innovative ideas to ensure we still survive as a council.”

Cllr Searle added that she was very pleased that Cllr Dunn had recommended the zero per cent council tax increase and that she would also uphold the recommendation.

Speaking after the meeting, Adur District Council leader Neil Parkin said the decision had been an ideological one as much as a financial one.

“We are concerned for the people of Adur,” he said.

“Times are hard and we are doing our bit to help.

“We want less tax and value for money.

“We don’t waste your council tax.

“We are not spending millions all over the place.”

The budget report also revealed that the council would benefit from surplus business rates of £142,000 in the next financial year.

Speculation surrounded the Government setting a new limit by which councils may increase council tax before triggering a referendum.

The report assumed this threshold would drop from two per cent to 1.5 per cent.

In his 2013 Autumn Statement, chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne announced that he expected local governments to freeze council tax in the coming year.

n Turn to page 14 for news on West Sussex County Council’s tax recommendation.