‘Very tough decisions’ on council tax in new year warns West Sussex County Council leader

Leader Louise Goldsmith at Tangmere Solar Farm
Leader Louise Goldsmith at Tangmere Solar Farm

‘Very tough decisions’ on council tax will have to be made in the new year, West Sussex County Council’s leader has warned.

Earlier this month Michael Brown resigned as cabinet member for finance as he felt unable to stand up in a budget debate early next year and announce a significant tax increase.

Although WSCC said no final decisions have been made on council tax or the 2016/17 budget, leader Louise Goldsmith left the door open for a council tax rise as the authority looks to cut more than £140m over the next four years.

She said: “Next year will be an extremely challenging one for us but we will continue to do everything we can to deliver good quality services and value for taxpayers while continuing to make the necessary savings.

“However with growing demands on our services, a worse than expected funding settlement from the Government, the end of the council tax freeze grant and the introduction of the National Living Wage we will have to take some very tough decisions regarding council tax.

“We totally support the Living Wage but we cannot escape the fact that this will add an extra £9m annually to our budget, nor can we escape the fact that the Chancellor’s two per cent surcharge on council tax bills for social care will not plug the funding gap we face in providing adult social services.

“West Sussex has frozen council tax for its residents for the last five years but with the additional burdens being placed on our budget and a shortfall in funding some tough decisions will have to be made.”

In his Autumn Statement last month, Chancellor George Osborne announced that local authorities would be given the flexibility to raise council tax by up to two per cent purely to fund adult social care.

But earlier this month council officers explained that the move could generate £31.8m over four years, but would fall short of the £49m of additional expected budget pressures to the adult social care department.

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