Council tax set to be frozen for fourth year in row

COUNCIL tax in West Sussex could be frozen for the fourth consecutive year.

West Sussex County Council’s cabinet voted for the recommendation on Tuesday.

The budget for 2014/15 will now be put to a meeting of the full county council on Friday February 14.

If approved, it will mean the average Band D council taxpayer will continue to pay £1,161.99 for all services delivered by the County Council.

Still to be added to that figure will be the amounts required by individual district or borough councils, Sussex Police, and town or parish councils.

Michael Brown, the council’s cabinet member for finance, said: “I am delighted that we will be asking the council to freeze council tax again.

“It means that local taxpayers will be paying the same in council tax until March 31, 2015 that they were on April 1, 2010.

“We recognise that times are hard for many households, and as a council we have a duty to help them if we possibly can.”

Cabinet members were told today that the proposed budget was set against a background of ‘continuing austerity in the public finances, and means the county council must continue to plan for much reduced resources.’

Cllr Brown said: “At this stage, we have produced a two year savings plan for both the next financial year and 2015/16 totalling £55 million.

“However, there is a lot of good news in this budget, not least the significant investment of £15 million in improving our unclassified road network with more to follow in 2015/16.

“There is also growth money of £6.25 million for the adults’ budget, and £1.1 million for the National Concessionary Fares scheme to reflect the growth in numbers of people eligible for free bus travel.”

The budget also includes £31.5 million for the Worthing Age of Transfer project, which will also include a new secondary school.

There is also a provisional £54 million for primary and secondary school basic needs projects – allowing schools to expand to help deal with rising pupil numbers.

A report to the cabinet said: “The budget embodies the core principles of living within our means, protecting the vulnerable and bearing down vigorously on administration costs.

“It provides for the transition of the county council to a modern commissioning organisation drawing on all strands of society and the local economy to deliver cost effective services focused on the community’s needs.

“While financial pressures are unlikely to ease in the near future, the county council remains well placed to deal with the challenges to come. “

Council leader Louise Goldsmith said: “An enormous amount of work has gone into the budget, we continue to deliver a wide range of services, and in the much needed area of Adults Services’ are increasing funding to meet growing demands.

“In the future the county council will focus on three key areas - Start of Life, the Economy and Later Life.

“We know that West Sussex is a great place to live, work and rest and the Council has an important role to play in helping to maintain that, which is why we are changing to a commissioning model to meet the demands of our residents for today and tomorrow.”