Two per cent council tax rise set by Horsham District Council

Horsham District Council has balanced its budget for 2024/25.
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And it will see out 2023/24 with a £215,000 surplus.

The news was shared during a meeting of the full council on Wednesday (February 21), where members approved a 2 per cent increase in council tax.

The rise will add £3.34 to the district’s portion of a Band D bill, taking it from £166.94 to £170.28.

Mark Baynham. Image: Horsham District CouncilMark Baynham. Image: Horsham District Council
Mark Baynham. Image: Horsham District Council
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Residents in the three un-parished wards – Denne, Forest and Trafalgar – will see the special charge increased by 35 per cent (£9.69) to £37.21.

Mark Baynham, cabinet member for finance & resources, said: “I believe I’m presenting a realistic budget that takes full account of our financial position and provides the backbone to delivering our ambitious – and certainly not foolhardy – council plan for the next year.”

The net revenue requirement for the coming year – the amount it costs to run the council and all its services – will be £14.5m.

This represents an increase of £800,000 (5.5 per cent), which Mr Baynham said was largely down to inflation costs – especially for energy – and also the staff pay settlement.

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The budget includes £227,000 of grants to support voluntary groups and community partnerships such as Citizens Advice, Age UK, Community Transport Sussex, the Upper Beeding Hub, Horsham Matters and the Southwater Youth Project.

A £10.5m capital programme will support nearly 50 projects, including built environment improvements in the Bishopric and Carfax, council vehicle replacements, disabled facilities grants and the refurbishment of The Capitol theatre.

Among an increase in fees and charges was the decision to increase the cost of a garden waste bin by £5 to £54 and remove the discount for second and subsequent bins.

The cost of annual season tickets for rural car parks will increase by £15 to £180.

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And day passes for the Swan Walk, Forum or Piries Place car parks will cost between £5.60 and £8.80, depending on which car park you use.

While the budget may have been balanced for the coming financial year, things further ahead do not look so rosy.

A deficit of £1.8m is forecast for 2025/26, rising to £3.6m in 2029/30.

On top of that, it is still unclear whether the government will fully cover the cost of starting up a domestic food waste collection, which is required to start by March 2026.

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Mr Baynham said the council would need to ‘enhance our programme of maximising efficiency and best value’, look at further ways to raise money, and review and prioritise services it is not required by law to provide.

He quashed rumours that the council had not balanced its budget – pointing out that it was legally required to do so.

He told doubters: “You can look at it and stare – you have all the papers – you can get out your calculator, you can do the maths. It’s a balanced budget.”

Philip Circus (Con, West Chiltington, Thakeham & Ashington) said his group was ‘unhappy about the overall character of the budget’ which they felt was ‘unduly optimistic in terms of expenditure’.

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He said: “I think we could, given the overly ambitious programme, end up in a period of financial difficulty.

“We think that’s such a pity at a time when it’s so obvious that other local authorities are suffering the consequences of that financial insecurity.”