Crawley Borough Council balances budget with tax rise and use of reserves

Crawley Borough Council has had to use £261,970 of reserves to balance its budget for 2023/24.
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The budget, which includes a 2.99 per cent rise in council tax – the maximum allowed for a borough council – was approved during a meeting of the full council last Wednesday (February 22).

The increase will take the council’s portion of a Band D council tax bill to £225.34, up £6.55 on 2022/23.

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The revenue budget, which covers the day-to-day running of the council, was set at £15.3m while £900,000 was added to the capital programme to pay for retrofitting work on the council’s housing stock and new-build schemes to help achieve water neutrality.

Crawley Borough Council leader Michael JonesCrawley Borough Council leader Michael Jones
Crawley Borough Council leader Michael Jones

Leader Michael Jones said: “This is a sound and prudent budget for the year that will maintain front-line services to a standard that we have always valued.”

Mr Jones pointed to inflation and the costs of dealing with homelessness as the main reasons for the budget shortfall, with inflationary costs forming about one-fifth of the budget.

As for homelessness and the numbers being evicted from privately rented homes and needing temporary accommodation, he said: “People in Crawley have been particularly badly hit and, as a result, the costs to this council are disproportionately high.

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“This is a budget of millions of pounds that is already many hundreds of thousands overspent because of the scale of the problems people are experiencing from within the borough.

“It should be of deep concern to us all.”

Calling on the government to give councils the money they need to keep their heads above water, Mr Jones described how some other councils were in ‘dire strait’ with some issuing Section 114 notices which effectively say they are bankrupt.

He added: “We will not be one of them – I’m sure of that – but that does not mean things will be easy either.”

Conservative leader Duncan Crow supported the budget, calling it ‘quite sensible’ and ‘a budget for the times that we are in’.

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He tabled an amendment asking for £80,000 to be taken from reserves to increase the size of the town’s Community Warden team by two.

The idea was voted down partly because the council is carrying out a review of the service.