Tax Setting Council Meeting

Tonight was the tax-setting Council Meeting. I know some Councils find this causes a massive debate but with only three Members who are not Conservative, and of those two being Independent supporters of much we do, there was little chance of heated debate. Finally, the Lib Dem (the only other party represented) did not turn up.

The meeting last less than half an hour!

So the impossible task was due. The Council, which is one of the smallest in the country, had to cope with spiralling costs of central government demands while not cutting essential services and without breaching central government's imposed 5% increase cap. This fine work was done (not by me) and, having scrutinised every detail at the Community and Leisure Services Committee and the Housing and Central Services Committee, I was happy that this was the best possible deal for the tax payer given the circumstances.

Ideally we would not be so reliant on central government's hand-outs; ideally we would not have masses of new legislation and costs year on year; ideally these things would be true. Sadly, they're not.

Consider, for example, the following which our Leader mentioned in his speech. Central government has agreed to a 30% increase in the fees that Planning Inspectors can charge for work on the Local Development Framework. This, after we've set our budget of £70,000 per year just for that. It is crazy money, money that people do not realise needs to be spent given the central government's current party in power. But 30%, when Council Taxes are at an all-time real-cost high, when Council Tax is capped at 5%... I just want to say "Gah!".

So while we've saved £50,000 by working jointly with Worthing Borough Council on Revenue and Benefits (which amounts to 1% on the Council Tax) we're saddled with extra costs all over the place which eliminate that.

So Council Tax is to rise 4.9% for the part that Adur District Council is responsible for. The West Sussex County Council proportion is also 4.9% and Sussex Police want, wait for it, 6%!

"But 6% is more than they're allowed." I hear you say. And you'd be right. Once again the blame can be angled directly back at central government. Under one of the previous Home Secretaries (they've all been terrible, so I cannot remember which) the Police Forces were told to prepare to merge with other forces. This cost Sussex Police £1m... Their extra 1% over the cap is intended to recoup that. Unfortunately, if the government say "No" then we have to rebill everyone after the cap is imposed... And the whole cost of that (£700,000) won't, I'm afraid, fall on the Police Force.

Tomorrow a little piece about Adur for those of you who don't know it. I was thinking about it on the way home this evening, and it's really unique I think.

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