County council tax freeze on agenda

A possible freeze in council tax for a third successive year will be on the agenda for a meeting of West Sussex County Council’s Policy and Resources Select Committee next week.

Councillors will be discussing a report on the main funding changes for local government and the potential impact on local services.

Chancellor George Osborne recently announced there would be government support for a tax freeze in 2013/14.

The report says there is still ‘significant uncertainty in funding levels for the year ahead’, with the full implications not becoming clear until mid-December when the local authority grant settlement is expected to be announced by the Government.

Committee members will be asked to comment on the ‘strong direction of travel of a council tax freeze for 2013/14.’

Committee Chairman David Britton said: “A council tax freeze for a third year running would undoubtedly be very welcome news for all our residents, but the final decision will not be taken until February 2013 when the full Council meets to decide on its budget.

“Our debate is designed to help inform the Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, Michael Brown, with his recommendation to that meeting”.

If there is a freeze, the average Band D taxpayer would continue paying £1,161.99 for services delivered by the County Council, excluding the amounts required by individual district or borough councils, Sussex Police, and town or parish councils.

The scrutiny committee meets at County Hall, Chichester, on Wednesday, November 7 from 10.30am, and is open to the public.

Members will also be looking at the implications for West Sussex of the major change from next April when an element of funding for all local authorities will come from the retention of business rates.

Detailed policy guidance from the Government on the new funding arrangements are expected early in the New Year.

David said: “There have been discussions about a possible pooling arrangement with our partners from the District and Borough Councils, which could enable more funds to be retained locally.

“We will be looking in detail at the opportunities and risks of this - again in order to help inform Michael Brown before he makes a final decision in January.“