As a local resident who feels that party politics play too great a role in district councils, I carefully read the conflicting statements by councillors Arthur and Holmes in last week’s WSCT regarding Horsham District Councils finances for the next three years.
Why do such politics have to prevent a healthy democratic debate on this crucial subject?
However, what is now clear is that (since its introduction in 2011/12) a significant part of the
central government support which is dependent upon house building (known as the ‘New Homes Bonus’ and which replaces an increasing part of the Formula Grant) has already been or will be placed into ‘Reserves’ rather than directly applied to the ‘Revenue Account’.
In particular a further £1.25m (est.) expected to be paid in 2014/15 and 2015/16 has been so earmarked, thereby inevitably
increasing the projected deficits by that same amount.
These projected (and increased) deficits are those that the council has recently made decisions upon regarding green waste and car parking charges.
Is this action to bolster reserves and thereby increase the anticipated revenue account deficits by £1.25m sensible and prudent?
We can only judge that when HDC reveals its projections for the total revenue reserves over that same timescale. HDC recently determined that such reserves should be at least £6m in order to deal with evaluated risk.
At 31/3/2012 they stood at twice that amount, £12m; but HDC has not recently published any estimate, not even for 31/3/2013. Also no projections for the following two years have been made public, nor even reported at council meetings when these crucial decisions were made.
If the Horsham electorate are to support their council’s difficult decisions, openness and transparency concerning such figures is essential.
The council may well then find that the residents of the district
would (albeit sometimes reluctantly) agree that the actions taken were necessary, to safeguard the future finances.
The question has to be asked though. How could our councillors vote on actions arising from such detailed projections of future deficit, when they only had part of the picture, i.e. no figures for estimates of the ensuing revenue reserves?
Can they be sure that diverting £1.25m of New Homes Bonus into reserves over 2014/15 and 2015/16 was necessary to maintain them at the £6m level?
Who knows? Without the figures, I certainly don’t.
Cox Green, Rudgwick