Rise in parking and green waste charges considered

Brian Donnelly, cabinet member for finance and assets, said the council had to be proactive as well as prudent
Brian Donnelly, cabinet member for finance and assets, said the council had to be proactive as well as prudent

Charges for town centre car parks and the collection of green waste bins could both be increased next year by Horsham District Council.

Due to an increase in costs and a reduction in funding from central Government, the authority is looking at a £2.3m deficit by 2021/22.

Current budget projections for 2018/19 would see an extra £5 a year added to the district council’s element of council tax for a Band D property.

HDC increased its precept by 2.5 per cent last year, equating to £3.43 a year, but remained the lowest council tax figure in West Sussex.

However, further options to help bridge the deficit are listed as putting the garden waste charge up by £2 and look at targeted increases of car parking charges.

The council’s budget for 2018/19 will go before councillors in February.

An update on its Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) was discussed by cabinet members last month.

Brian Donnelly (Con, Pulborough and Coldwaltham), cabinet member for finance and assets, said: “We firmly believe we must not store up problems for the future or for our successors so we have got to be proactive as well as prudent in order to ensure the finances of the council and the use of the citizens’ money is correctly utilised and is ready for most eventualities we can foresee.”

He raised the recently rebuilt depot at Hop Oast and the project to build a new Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre and major investment in The Forum.

Mr Donnelly pointed out that for five years HDC had frozen council tax prior to the last two years, while providing ‘amazing facilities’.

He added: “If we take sensible actions now we will be able to avoid the type of draconian cuts other councils have had to take already when our position gets tougher still.

“I do hope it doesn’t but we do not know what the future holds.”

Ray Dawe (Con, Chantry), leader of the council, said: “We do not have to go back very far when this council was receiving millions, and I’m taking about five, six, seven million pounds from the Government in grant.

“In the year 2019/20 by some odd calculation we end up paying the Government £700,000, so that’s the sort of amount of money we have had to deal with and absorb over that period of time, and we’ve done it basically without cutting services.

“At the end of the day it does mean that councils have got to look at various means of funding those services, and people will be aware of what some of those are.

“Whenever a cost goes up nobody likes it, but I’m afraid that’s the reality of the world.”

According to the MTFS other potential options alongside increasing charges and council tax rises could be to review the delivery of some discretionary services and further rationalise the council’s property estates.

An officers’ report added: “The current Future Horsham programme of efficiencies and income generation has not specifically identified schemes into the 2020s.

“However, the programme will be extended by looking for new sources of income, reviewing our workforce especially around recruiting and retaining local staff and supporting our people to take on broader and more complex roles, comparing us to others through our productivity reviews to see if we can provide the same more efficiently, replacing our technology with cheaper, Cloud based options and increasing the amount of self-service using the internet and social media.

“This would help to close the budget gap to a more manageable amount in the future.

“It is also expected that as the council gets to these years, the budgets would be firmed up with actual efficiencies and income to balance the budget.”