Worthing council tax rise and budget including £1.4m savings agreed

Worthing Town Hall
Worthing Town Hall

Council tax bills from Worthing Borough Council will rise to £237.78 in April.

The increase, which equates to 12p per week on a Band D home, was approved at a full council meeting last night (Tuesday February 26).

This, coupled with a £24 increase from Sussex Police and more than £65 from West Sussex County Council, will see most people paying around £95 more a year.

When it came to the budget, the lack of a revenue support grant from central government this year has caused huge financial pressures for councils all over the country.

In 2015/16 Worthing received more than £2m – a gap which anyone would find hard to plug.

So, while Elizabeth Sparkes, executive member for resources, was able to present a balanced budget, it did include £1.4m of cuts.

One of the biggest changes will see rubbish collected fortnightly rather than weekly, saving more than £200,000.

Leader Daniel Humphreys said weekly collections were ‘no longer a good use of council taxpayers’ money’, adding that people were not making full use of the service and putting out half full bins.

But Labour members said the change was being made ‘purely on the grounds of cost saving’.

Mr Humphreys told the meeting that 2019/20 would be the third and final year of the council’s Platforms for our Places strategy.

The scheme has been aimed at championing areas such as the financial and social economy.

He added: “We’re all well aware of the challenging financial context that local government finds itself in but the strategy is an ambitious one, which responds to the needs and desires of our local community.

“The budget provides the financial means to complete the third year of that strategy and look forward to an even brighter future for the people of Worthing.”

Labour leader Rebecca Cooper proposed four amendments to the budget, including putting an end to the £5 weekly council tax bill for those on the council tax support scheme.

All four amendments were defeated.

Ms Cooper said: “Austerity brings with it considerable social costs that we all too often hear about from our constituents.

“Increasing numbers of people who are homeless or living with the very real threat of this; overburdened schools and hospitals; closed children’s centres; unrepaired roads and, dare I say it, uncollected bin.

“Worthing Borough Council is not the place to get in to a philosophical debate about the place of austerity as a reasonable economic approach but I do question how it feels to be a Conservative councillor trying to balance an ever decreasing budget that is handed to you by your own Conservative government.”

A report to the meeting stated: “This has been another challenging year. The council has seen the government grants fall, a substantial increase in housing need numbers, and addressed the consequences of the county council’s budget decisions.

“However, to meet this challenge, the council has identified £1.4m of savings and is now in the position to set a balanced budget.”