Hastings council proposes tax increase and 30 staff redundancies in this year’s budget

Residents in Hastings will be paying more council tax in 2020 if budget proposals are approved at a cabinet meeting next month.

Hastings Town Centre - taken from Robertson Street
Hastings Town Centre - taken from Robertson Street

Council tax in the town will increase by 1.99 per cent – the maximum amount allowed – for 2020/2021.

This means residents living in a Band D property will be paying an extra £5.28 per annum, or 10p per week.

Hastings Borough Council said the increase in council tax has been caused by cuts in the grant received from central government. The council said these cuts equate to more than £55 million since 2010.

In this year’s budget, the council is proposing 30 staff redundancies, in full-time equivalents, including some senior managers, to fill a budget gap of more than £2.4 million, according to council leader Peter Chowney.

The budget is now in the consultation process and residents have until 5pm on Friday, February 7, 2020, to submit their feedback.

All comments received will be summarised and reported to the council’s Budget Cabinet meeting on February 10. The draft plan and budget will then be put before the full council for approval on February 19.

Addressing this year’s budget, councillor Chowney said: “Over the last ten years, we have been faced with continuing year-on-year cuts to the grant we get from central government. Our total grants have been cut by over 72 per cent. This means that since 2010, the council has lost well over £55 million in the money we receive to run services in our town.

“We’ve had to replace that funding wherever we can by raising money locally. We’ve done this by increasing fees and charges, raising council tax, and income generation, notably commercial property purchases, which will raise over £1million a year in additional net income.

“The Hastings Council element of the Hastings council tax will increase this year by 1.99 per cent, which amounts to £5.28 per annum for a Band D property, or 10p a week. This is the maximum allowed. We are however, very proud that we’ve been able to keep a generous council tax reduction scheme, which means that most people on out-of-work benefits (75 per cent of claimants) will still pay no council tax. We believe we will be one of the few councils left in the country who do this. Because of the extreme financial hardship that’s been caused by the roll-out of Universal Credit in Hastings, we believe we need to do this to protect those who are least able to pay.

“This year we’ve seen further cuts to our grant funding and massive additional pressures on our budget. Rocketing homelessness has pushed the bill for rehousing homeless people to over two million pounds a year.

“We were facing a gap in our budget for the coming year of over £2.4 million. We’ve had to cover that gap by a mixture of service cuts, efficiency savings, income generation and using up our reserves. There will be around 30 council staff redundancies, in full time equivalents, including some of our most senior managers.”

Councillor Chowney said Hastings Borough Council will continue to bid for external grants to fund projects that help it meet its priorities.

He added: “We’ve been very successful at this, raising many millions over the last couple of years for additional targeted support for rough sleepers, a series of employment and community development projects in the most deprived parts of town, improvements to the seafront, funding to help our local fishery, and more. We are also working hard with partners to develop a proposal to submit to the Town Deal Fund for up to £25m of money to help further regenerate our town.

“We’ll also continue to look at new ways to tackle the challenges we’re facing, including homelessness, deprivation, and a significant focus on meeting our commitment to the climate change emergency by becoming a carbon neutral town by 2030.

“This year will be another extremely tough budget, and the future is not looking bright. The government is due to carry out a ‘Fair Funding Review’ of how it funds local councils in 2020. We have no idea yet what impact this will have on our council and it could mean that we have even less money. But we will do all we can to continue to be more efficient, improve our performance and customer care, and get the very best for local people.”

The draft corporate plan and budget for 2020/21 is available at www.hastings.gov.uk/my-council/consultations/corp-plan-budget2020/

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