Borough council tax to rise by two per cent

Eastbourne councillors have approved a council tax rise of two per cent.
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The council tax bill is divided between East Sussex County Council, Eastbourne Borough Council, the police and crime commissioner for Sussex and East Sussex Fire Authorities.

Councillors said the rise, which equates to just under 10p a week for the borough part of the tax, would still leave the council with a ‘significant shortfall’ in funding.

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The council said the increase would ‘allow it to continue delivering essential services to residents and support businesses through the challenges posed by the pandemic’.

Councillor Stephen Holt, cabinet member for financial services, said, “Coronavirus has impacted on all aspects of our way of life, most tragically in some cases with the loss of loved ones.

“We have been doing everything we can to support residents, particularly the most vulnerable, and Eastbourne businesses through these difficult times so I am pleased we have been able to keep the increase in council tax down to just 10p a week.”

The council said Eastbourne’s role as a seaside town means there has been a ‘crushing financial blow’ by Covid-19 with the council bearing ‘significant unplanned costs and huge losses in income’.

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Eastbourne Borough Council gets around 60 per cent of income from tourism and this figure has suffered a massive decline due to Covid-19 – including £6 million worth of revenue lost from the forced closures of theatres and all conferencing.

Cllr Holt said, “The pandemic has hit the council’s income, created increased demand for our services and led to more hardship across the borough requiring a rapid expansion of support for jobs and the economy.

“We recognised that early intervention was important and have already made savings of £4.8 million this year. We also approached the government in the summer when they asked for councils with exceptional financial circumstances to contact them.”

He said many council across the country have asked for additional support as a result of the pandemic.

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Following discussions with the government it has been agreed that the council can capitalise, that is to delay full recognition of the expense, up to £6.8m for the financial year 2020/21 and up to £6m for 2021/22.

Councillor David Tutt, leader of the council, said, “This agreement from government is recognition that the Covid lockdowns created unavoidable and unprecedented pressure on council finances.

“We have been working closely with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government for some time over our significant shortfall in funding and although our calls for the government to honour its financial promises made at the start of the pandemic to compensate for lost income have not been met, we are encouraged to be moving ahead now with capitalisation plans albeit at additional financial cost for the council to manage.

“Alongside delivering significant savings through our recovery and reset programme, we have achieved a budget that provides financial sustainability and resilience for the future.”

Full council will consider the budget on February 24.