‘Let’s unleash Worthing’s potential’ says Tory council leader as budget approved

‘Let’s prove the doomsters and gloomsters wrong and unleash Worthing’s potential’ was the message from Worthing Borough Council’s leader this week.

Dan Humphreys, leader of Worthing Borough Council,
Dan Humphreys, leader of Worthing Borough Council,

Councillors met on Wednesday night to approve the 2020/21 budget, which includes a two per cent increase in its share of council tax.

Daniel Humphreys, leader of the council, described how the authority had seen its funding from central Government reduced by £6milllion.

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While the council had ‘done its bit in recent years’ as the Government looked to tackle the national deficit, it was now time for the ‘levelling up of resources’.

He said they had reduced costs wherever they could and moved to a more commercial footing.

Mr Humphreys argued that on ‘so many issues’ the council was being ambitious and ‘punching well above our weight’.

He raised the council’s seafront investment strategy, regeneration of sites such as Teville Gate, Fulbeck Avenue and Union Place, plans to improve digital infrastructure and investment in Brooklands Park and Highdown Gardens.

He felt Worthing would ‘roar into the 20s in our post-EU world’, adding: “Let’s prove the doomsters and gloomsters wrong and unleash Worthing’s potential.”

Jim Deen, speaking on behalf of the Labour group, raised the fact they were relying more and more on income from the council’s property investments.

On the council’s flagship policy of regenerating major sites, Cllr Deen said: “There’s been less than substantial progress over the last 12 months.”

With council tax increasing he argued that residents were paying ‘more for reduced services’.

He said: “We have a budget without ambition and innovation and offering no more than more of the same.”

The Labour group did not put forward any budget amendments as Cllr Deen said they were ‘not playing these silly games this year’.

He described how they were ‘bursting with ideas’ and would be putting these directly to the people of Worthing at an event planned in the Dome in mid-March.

He told the Conservatives: “We do not need or want your approval. The people whose approval we seek are the residents of Worthing and that’s who we are taking our plans to.”

Lib Dem Bob Smytherman said there was much in the budget they supported, but they would ‘probably abstain’. Given the current system he felt the meeting and budget process was a ‘bit of a charade’ and bemoaned the missed opportunity to move to a committee system.

Steve Waight (Con, Goring) questioned a lack of detail on what the council was actually going to do on climate change. He asked: “Where is the nitty-gritty  on this?”

Carl Walker (Lab, Selden) highlighted the number of empty stores in the town centre. He said: “There are a huge number of challenges, but I’m not sure I’m seeing enough in this budget to address the scale of those challenges.”

Edward Crouch, executive member for digital and environmental services, suggested Labour’s refusal to engage in the budget process was ‘ a little bit Trumpian’, adding: “I think on balance there is more to be proud of in Worthing than our friends opposite would suggest.”