Adur and Worthing Partnership Strategy

Tonight Adur Council made a very, very difficult decision.

Ideally the Council would not change. Ideally we could continue to provide the services we do, which are largely great, and keep Council tax rising with inflation or, at worst, with average earnings.

But unfortunately, we must instead cope with increasing demands from central government: starting new initiatives, increasing standards where no demand exists and generally suffering spiralling costs. So, this year, the Council's spending requirements increased by 15% when the maximum Council tax increase we could impose was 5%. With some clever playing with the resource allocation a key team of Councillors managed to reduce this to 4.9%. But this isn't sustainable; very shortly the Council would have to start butchering (to use the leader's phrase at the meeting tonight) services.

We do not want that.

So the Council has spent a lot of time trying to find ways to solve this unsquare-able circle. Joint working with Horsham and Mid-Sussex District Councils has saved some money on our computers and revenue systems and joint working with Worthing has saved money by sharing a Depot for refuse and recycling for example. But now we realise that that too is not enough. As the government pushes Councils to become Unitary Authorities we must find a way to maintain the close proximity of service provider and service user that we currently enjoy and that a Unitary Authority would threaten.

Tonight's decision was to confirm that further work would continue to look into merging the management structures and decision making bodies of Adur District Council and Worthing Borough Council. This was a difficult decision because, as I said, we really don't want things to change.

But the decision had to be made whether it was hard or not and the ruling Conservatives did not have the luxury that the Independent and Liberal Democrat Councillors had of abstaining — we have to solve the funding crisis imposed upon us by the Labour government.

Some people think it's a foregone conclusion that we will move forward with this proposal but I cannot emphasis enough that the decision tonight was just to look into the possibility.


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