West Sussex County Council’s Cabinet has recommended that the county council agree to freeze council tax bills for the third year in a row.
The draft budget for 2013/14 was agreed by the Cabinet at its meeting today (Tuesday January 29) and will now go to the full meeting of West Sussex County Council next month for approval.
If agreed, it will be the third year in a row West Sussex County Council has frozen its share of the council tax bill. It would mean the average Band D taxpayer would continue to pay £1,161.99 for the 80 percent of local government services that are provided by the County Council.
This does not include any figure needed by their District or Borough Council, Sussex Police, or precepts charged by town and parish councils.
Cabinet Member for finance and resources Michael Brown said: “It’s no secret that nationally we are facing many more years of austerity measures. We are all feeling the pinch, and as such, I am sure households will welcome our proposals to freeze council tax for the coming year.”
The budget includes the final year of the county council’s £79 million three-year savings programme, which was agreed to cope with reduced Government grants.
Michael added: “We are on target to make our planned savings over the coming year. These have been difficult times for everyone, but I am pleased to say that the County Council has risen to that challenge. Although we have had to make savings, we have also taken the opportunity to ensure that services are running as efficiently as possible, while still meeting the needs of residents and businesses.
“I am pleased to say that we are planning no new cuts in our draft budget. Our policy remains to avoid cuts to existing budgets over and above the already approved £79 million three-year target. We have protected front-line services as far as possible, and this continues to be our priority as our savings programme continues.
“Thanks to our careful financial management, we have also been able to respond to emergency situations, our £8.25 million Operation Watershed fund set up to pay for flood-related schemes on the back of the recent extreme weather being a prime example.”
A recent study by the Audit Commission found that the average amount held by authorities in unearmarked reserves was five percent of net spending. The draft budget shows the County Council’s unearmarked reserves, held in the General Fund, are estimated at £17.8 million at March 31, 2014, which is approximately 3.3 per cent of net revenue spending.
The overall reserves figure will be reducing throughout 2013/14, with planned expenditure from reserves being used to help kickstart the economy providing much needed infrastructure improvements.
The budget will now go to the full West Sussex County Council meeting on Friday February 15 for approval. The meeting takes place at 10.30am at County Hall, West Street, Chichester, and will also be webcast via the County Council’s website at www.westsussex.gov.uk.