DESPITE facing £141m cuts to council spending, West Sussex looks set to freeze council tax for a fourth year running.
This comes in the wake of the revelation this month that if West Sussex had not kept council tax frozen since 2010, it would have an extra £159m to spend.
Campaigners have condemned the decision to freeze it yet again, saying the council should consider raising the tax to prevent the most vulnerable in the county being targeted by proposed £32m cuts to the adult health and social care budget.
On December 13, at a meeting of West Sussex County Council, cabinet member for finance Michael Brown: “I think if we take the past three years, and add a projection for the next year, where the proposal is that the tax will be frozen again, the aggregate amount of money that’s in people’s pockets rather than in our coffers as a result of four years of freeze is about £159m, in circulation, helping the West Sussex economy.”
He added: “I believe that the money can do more economic good when spent by West Sussex residents than by the county council on their behalf.”
Last week, the council came under fire from UNISON for its tax freeze policy.
Branch secretary Dan Sartin said: “The council is still obsessed with freezing council tax, when it knows the implications of this policy are now absolutely dire for a vast range of young, elderly and vulnerable people.
“Let’s be clear – two per cent increase in council tax would put the 2014/15 bill up by 45p a week for band D payers.
“For Band B payers, it would be just 35p a week.
“This is a small price to pay to live in a civilised county where we support our fellow neighbour rather than turning our back on them. “
Council leader Louise Goldsmith said: “We are working towards another tax freeze as part of our budget plans, and I am sure that this will be welcomed by the majority of our residents.
“I am confident that we can make the savings we need through greater efficiencies and re-structuring some of our services to ensure they continue to meet people’s needs.
“Times are hard. Not only for the council but also for our residents who put us here in this chamber, and who expect us to treat every pound we spend as carefully as it was earned.”
Chairman of the Don’t Cut Us Out campaign group Margaret Guest also called on the council to look at raising council tax as an alternative to its drastic cuts plan.