An investment of £138m into West Sussex’s roads, adults’ services, schools and care homes and a freeze on the county’s portion of the council tax bill has been supported by county council leaders.
The authority’s Cabinet Members voted unanimously to support the council tax freeze for a fifth year running as part of its proposed budget for 2015/16 when they met yesterday afternoon (Tuesday January 27).
If agreed by Full Council at the budget meeting on February 13, the freeze would keep the county’s share of Council Tax at just £1,161.99 for a Band D property.
Key investments outlined in the proposed budget include:
£5m per year for the next two years to alleviate pressure on the Council’s adult services’ budget
Multi million pound investment in high speed broadband capability across the county
A further £15m in the Better Roads programme to improve many of the county’s residential and rural roads
Significant investment in infrastructure improvements to ensure businesses can flourish
Further investment in the Council’s Think Family programme which helps get out of work parents back to work and helps those families who need a little bit more support
Reductions in government grants mean that the council needs to save £68m in the next two years. Draft proposals for how this will be achieved were also considered and approved by Cabinet at the meeting.
Michael Brown, West Sussex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “We have a commitment to keeping council tax low and our recommendation to Full Council will be to freeze levels for 2015-16. It will be the fifth consecutive year that we will have done this whilst continuing to do all we can to protect frontline services. This is no mean feat, especially at a time of ongoing significant reductions in local authority funding.
“Our prudent financial planning has put us in a steady position and local taxpayers will be pleased to know that we are on target to deliver a budget that is not only low-taxing, but is balanced, efficient and safeguards all the high-quality services for which West Sussex is renowned.”
West Sussex County Council has an operating budget of more than £500m. It provides 80% of all local government services to a population of more than 800,000.
Services include maintaining and improving the county’s roads and highway network and footpaths, schools and education, social services for adults and children, waste disposal, libraries, trading standards and the county’s fire and rescue service.
Louise Goldsmith, West Sussex County Council’s Leader, added: “This is a really good budget. Our duty is to spend every penny of our taxpayers’ money as if we had earned it ourselves.
“We face enormous financial challenges, as we know families across the county do.
“We believe that this is a budget that supports the Council’s key priority areas of giving children the best start in life, supporting and growing our local economy and helping our older population to remain independent in later life at the same time as keeping as much money as we can in people’s pockets.
“It’s also a budget that, despite the savings we have to make, invests significantly in the county.”
The Cabinet also fully endorsed the Future West Sussex 2015-2019 Plan at their meeting – a blueprint of what will be delivered by the council over the next four years.
West Sussex County Council’s Budget meeting will take place on Friday, February 13 at Chichester College where final decisions will be taken.
The meeting is open to members of the public and will also be webcast live.