Tax hike as Petworth council aims to boost income

Petworth town councillors are to raise their slice of the council tax cake by three per cent.

But chairman of the town’s finance committee, Gordon Allan, said the increase which totalled £1,600 would only amount to around 50p per head for the 3,000-strong population of the town.

The town council’s slice of the total annual tax bill is by far the smallest of the three authorities, town and parish, district and county councils.

Mr Allan told town councillors: “We are looking at increasing our income because our expenditure outweighs our income and we need to find a way of balancing that.”

The finance committee was raising the allotment rents to make them self-financing and this would give an income of £2,500, £900 more than last year.

Expenditure included £7,000 earmarked for Christmas decorations and a further £3,000 for hanging baskets in the town.

Last year town councillors saved some £1,400 on their £7,000 Christmas lights budget, but Chris Kemp told fellow councillors: “I asked for the extra money this year because we still need to progress new lighting – what we have is getting tired and old and we want to keep the momentum of the event which is very good for the town, traders and community.

“I would be sad to see the lights start to dwindle and look shabby.”

He said the Christmas lights team were looking at obtaining sponsorship to bring costs down.

Mr Allan said finance committee members said the same ‘feel-good’ factor applied to the cost of hanging baskets.

“We feel the good will is worth the expenditure,” he told the town council.

Town councillors have earmarked £1,000 in next year’s budget, after a plea from town councillor John Robbins for winter salt and spreaders in case there is a repeat of last year’s heavy snow and icy road conditions.

He told town councillors he had identified ten locations in Petworth where bags of salt could be deposited. But the mix of salt and grit distributed free by West Sussex County Council would not go through the spreaders.

“If we get bad weather we can put the bags in place and people can spread it themselves with shovels,” he said.

Asking for funds to progress the idea of buying spreaders and salt which could be used with them, he told councillors: “It would be a pretty poor show if we could not spend a few hundred pounds so people can go about the streets in safety if we are spending £7,000 on Christmas lights and £3,000 on hanging baskets.”

£10,000 was earmarked for work to the Horsham Road cemetery, £7,000 for Lombard Street lighting, and £2,500 for the Diamond Jubilee.