Slapping costs on to council tax a ‘shotgun’ approach

Steyning protest against car park charges before Christmas
Steyning protest against car park charges before Christmas

Slapping costs on to council tax bills instead of introducing new charges at rural car parks would be a ‘blunderbuss’ or ‘shotgun’ approach one cabinet member has suggested.

Horsham District Council approved its draft revenue budget for 2017/18 including a 2.5 per cent rise in its council tax precept as it looks to fill a £4.2m budget gap by 2020.

The council is also proposing to save money by bring in fortnightly general household waste bin collections from 2018 and new charges at rural car parks from April this year.

The charges have been opposed in several South Downs villages, with residents of Steyning being the most vocal.

But at Thursday’s Cabinet meeting, Brian Donnelly (Con, Pulborough and Coldwaltham), cabinet member for finance and assets, said: “These are all serious decisions the council has made to get to a balanced budget and at the end of the day we are going to maintain and have the lowest council tax in West Sussex.

“A lot of people say slap all these additional costs on to the council tax. It’s like a blunderbuss or a shotgun, it’s a little bit of an unsophisticated way of doing it.”

He explained that along with bringing in new rear loading bin lorries the council would save around £1m from the move to fortnightly collections.

Mr Donnelly added: “Being the doubtful cynical swine that I am, I went into it in great detail, swine is a technical term, but at the end of the day it’s very very hard to not go along with such a huge saving.”

Meanwhile he described the changes at rural car parks as a ‘carefully thought out strategy’ and argued no real evidence to suggest the charges would damage the local economy had been presented by opponents.

Leonard Crosbie (LDem, Trafalgar) argued that some of the ‘economic speak’ in the officers’ report should have focused more on a micro than macro economic level as the private sector was investing millions of pounds in Horsham with the North Horsham development and the proposals for Piries Place.

Meanwhile on the proposed council tax increase, Peter Burgess (Con, Holbrook West) said: “I have some spare cash but even in Horsham there are people who are on the board line and every time you put up council tax it means people who are paying this on the bread line are going to not have something.”

Mr Donnelly pointed out that prior to last year they had frozen council tax for five straight years and there was some council tax relief available to those struggling to pay their bills.

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