UPDATE: Council tax increase to help protect '˜vital services'

The average West Sussex household may have to fork out an extra £450 due to council tax increases planned by the county council over the next four years.

West Sussex County Council SUS-160531-124255001

Conservative controlled West Sussex County Council is proposing a 3.95 per cent rise to its precept in each of the next three years, reducing to 1.95 per cent in 2020/21.

This would mean that a Band D property would see at least £47.70 added to its yearly bill from April 2017, then another £49.60 in 2018/19, £51.56 in 2019/20 and £26.46 in 2020/21, on top of any increases from other precepting authorities such as borough, district, town and parish councils.

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Louise Goldsmith (Con, Chichester West), leader of the county council, said: “This year a council tax rise of 3.95 per cent is being proposed, subject to approval by Cabinet and Full Council.

“This is the equivalent of an extra 92 pence per week for the average household and includes a two per cent increase (worth £7.8m) to support the growing pressures of adult social care.

“Our ‘What Matters to You’ survey told us that two thirds of residents who responded would be happy for their council tax to increase by 3.75 per cent or more.

“Increases in council tax are now built into government’s expectation of how services will be funded in future years, so we have forecast how similar increases would affect our budget in future years.

“This takes into account the fact that our main source of funding from central government - the ‘Revenue Support Grant’ - will cease completely in 2019/20.

“However, I must stress that any possible future increases in council tax would be subject to scrutiny and the approval of Full Council.

“We will continue to look for efficiencies in everything we do to ensure we get the best value for money for our taxpayers, but at the same time we must ensure we are able to continue to provide vital services for our residents.”

But Michael Jones (Lab, Southgate and Crawley Central) said: “West Sussex has been hit by a Tory ‘double whammy’ of massive government cuts, combined with the short-sighted decisions of the local Tory leadership setting previous years’ council tax, leaving the council in a far worse financial position than it could have been.

“Labour warned the administration for years that they were storing up pain for local residents in the future.

“So now they’re left with no choice and council taxpayers are faced with a 3.95 per cent increase for the next three years - almos as much as the four per cent increase in allowances the Tory Cabinet awarded themselves last month.

“People budget for gradual increases, but now they’re facing a steep rise to bail the council out of its financial hole.”

According to a report accompanying the county council’s draft budget for 2017/18 the council tax increases are proposed ‘in the context of the continuing squeeze on public finances’.

It is proposing to plug a £41.6 funding gap for 2017/18 by making £16.8m of savings, raising an extra £15.4m through increasing council tax, and using £9.4m from reserves.

West Sussex County Council froze council tax for six years until last year, when it increased its precept by 3.95 per cent, which included the two per cent social care levy.

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