Horsham District Council’s latest budget includes council tax rise

Council tax in Horsham is set to rise by just under three per cent in April.
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If approved, the increase would see the district council’s portion of a Band D bill go from £157.52 to £162.09.

The changes, along with the budget for 2022/23, were discussed during a meeting of the cabinet on Thursday (January 27).

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Tony Hogben, cabinet member for finance, said the 2.9 per cent council tax increase amounted to 9p per week.

Horsham District Council is setting its budget for 2022/23Horsham District Council is setting its budget for 2022/23
Horsham District Council is setting its budget for 2022/23

He added: “This is a prudent level that balances the need of our hard-pushed residents with the future risks to this council.

Horsham district continues to have one of the lowest council tax in the [county] and is in the lowest 25 per cent nationally.”

The revenue budget for 2022/23 – used for the day-to-day running of the council and its services – has been set at £12.18m.

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A report to the cabinet said the figure was £1m higher than in 2020/21 and reflected ‘the continuing impact of Covid-19 as well as ongoing annual inflationary and salary cost-pressures’.

The capital budget – usually spending of a ‘one-off’ nature such as construction or asset improvement – has been set at £10m.

It includes £880,000 for work aimed at helping the environment, such as installing LED lights at The Capitol and in council-owned car parks and starting the switch over to electric vehicles.

Over all, the budget looks set to have a surplus of around £716,000 – though deficits are forecast between 2023 and 2025.

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Mr Hogben said 2022/23 ‘looks as good as it could be in a time of such uncertainty’.

He added: “Given the uncertainty in future, now is not the time to be too generous despite our sound financial position – but equally it’s not a time to put excessive pressure on our hard-pushed residents.”

Martin Boffey (Lib Dem, Trafalgar) said there were some good ideas in the budget but he felt it lacked ‘a real appreciation of the challenges facing our residents in the coming year’.

Referring to looming increases in inflation, energy costs, and National Insurance, he said: “With all of this happening, taxpayers can be forgiven for asking ‘why is [the council] running at a surplus and increasing council tax when families are going to be choosing between eating and heating?'”

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As well as the district council’s increase in council tax, residents will also face increases from Sussex Police and West Sussex County Council.

Recognising the district’s increase was only a few pounds per year, Mr Boffey added: “Any increase means that, for many residents, we are currently part of the problem, not part of the solution.”

He suggested money from the 2021/22 and 2022/23 surplus be set aside to help those most affected by the rising cost of living.

The budget will be set at a meeting of the full council on February 9.