Rise in Council Tax Bills agreed

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Council Tax for an average Band D household

This YearNext YearIncrease (£)Increase (%)
East Sussex County Council£1544.04£1613.34£69.304.5%
East Sussex Fire Authority£97.43£99.37£1.942.0%
Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner£214.91£224.91£10.004.7%
Wealden District Council£197.44£202.44£5.002.5%
Crowborough Town Council£172.39£172.39£0.000.0%
Total£2,226.21£2,312.45£86.243.9%

Band A – Band H

The different Council Tax band amounts are calculated from the Band D level. For example: Band A is the equivalent of two thirds (6/9) of Band D and Band H is the equivalent of twice (18/9) Band D.

Band ABand BBand CBand DBand EBand FBand GBand H
Ratio6/97/98/99/911/913/915/918/9
2021/22£1,484.14£1,731.50£1,978.85£2,226.21£2,720.92£3,215.64£3,710.35£4,452.42
2022/23£1,541.63£1,798.57£2,055.51£2,312.45£2,826.33£3,340.21£3,854.08£4,624.90
Increase£57.49£67.08£76.66£86.24£105.40£124.57£143.73£172.48

The actual amount shown on your bill might vary by a few pence because of rounding errors.

East Sussex Fire Authority

The Fire Authority met today (10th February). Members were asked to agree the budget and an increase of 1.99% in the level of Council Tax it charges to local residents.

Fire Authority Chairman Roy Galley said:

Every member of the Fire Authority recognises the impact that Covid-19 and other pressures are having on our communities, our local businesses and the finances of individual households. However, we believe that this small increase in Council Tax is the best way to ensure funding to continue to serve the public and save lives now and in the future. We will continue to lobby Government for fair and sustainable funding for our life saving Fire and Rescue Services.

Cllr Galley, Chairman East Sussex Fire Authority

This will mean an additional £1.94 for average properties in Band D and will result in an annual charge of £99.37. That equates to £1.91 per week.

Wealden District Council 

On Wednesday (9th February), Wealden District Council’s Cabinet discussed their budget proposals for the 2022/23 financial year, which are set to go to a Full Council vote later this month. 

The proposals include a 2.53 per cent increase in Wealden’s share of Council Tax, which equates to an extra £5 per year for a Band D household.

The proposed increase comes after Wealden froze its Council Tax last year, which the authority said was intended to soften the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Conservative Council Leader Bob Standley said:

We have a reputation for good sense financial management and I have to say when you look at some of our neighbouring councils we are in a much stronger position. 

It doesn’t happen by accident, it happens by hard work. Nothing happens by accident. The fact some of our neighbours are getting into a pickle is because they’ve actually not made some of the hard decisions we have had to make over the years.

We know the cost of living is going up and we want to keep council tax increases as low as possible.

But we also need to make sure that we deliver to our residents, because a lot of our residents are the vulnerable we need to protect.

Cllr Standley, Leader Wealden District Council

Other proposals include plans to increase both staff pay and members’ allowances by 2.5 per cent. These had also been frozen last year. 

No new savings have been identified, however.

Cabinet members also backed proposals to increase council house rents in line with central Government policy. This increase will be set at the Consumer Price Index (CPI) plus one per cent, equal to a 4.1 per cent increase this year. 

Further increases at the same rate (CPI plus one per cent) are expected to come in future years as well. 

While a significant increase, Cabinet member for housing Raymond Cade said the Council’s housing remained more affordable than alternatives, particularly the private rented sector.

Cllr Cade said:

In my view this clearly demonstrates the contribution this Council makes in providing households on low incomes a decent place to live.

Cllr Cade, Housing and Benefits Portfolio Holder

When put out for consultation late last year, the budget proposals showed Wealden District Council was expected to run a surplus of around £196,000 in 2022/23. 

After receiving the final settlement from the Government, however, the council now expects to run a surplus of £80,000, which will be paid into reserves. 

While the Council expects to run a surplus this year, it expects to be in deficit in the following four years.  As a result, money would need to be drawn from the Council’s general reserves, even if the authority agreed year-on-year Council Tax increases.

Despite money being drawn from reserves —  currently expected to total almost £1.3m between 2023/24 and 2026/27 — the Council would have general reserves of more than £3m by the end of its current Medium Term Financial Strategy.

East Sussex County Council

On Tuesday (8th February), members of East Sussex County Council signed off the authority’s budget for 2022/23, with a cross-party amendment defeated by the majority Conservative group.

The agreed budget includes both a 1.99 per cent increase to the authority’s share of Council Tax and an extra 2.5 per cent added to its adult social care precept. Put together these translate to a total increase of £69 per year for a Band D household.

Nick Bennett, Conservative lead member for resources and climate change, said these rises were intended to ensure the council was well-prepared in the face of significant uncertainty in the years ahead.

Asking people to pay more council tax for services is never welcome, particularly when this adds to household bills. We would not do so if we didn’t think it was completely necessary.

By asking residents to pay an increase, we can prepare for the future and make sure we are in the best position to continue to provide vital services as we come out of the pandemic and work towards implementing national change agendas, particularly around adult social care, charging reform and children’s services.

Cllr Bennett, Lead Member for Resources and Climate Change

Notably, the budget did not include any new savings and even saw previously agreed cuts of £900,000 removed from the Council’s early help service.

Savings agreed in previous years set to fall in 2022/23 amount to £1.362m. The bulk of this will come from increases to on-street parking charges, expected to bring in around £1m of additional income.

Overall, the budget is expected to see East Sussex County Council run a surplus of a little under £5m in 2022/23, which is to be put into reserves.

A further £5.175m (from a one-off government service grant) would be put into a special reserve fund for a number of as-yet-unidentified investment programmes.

At the same time, £5.7m would be transferred from reserves into the Council’s capital programme, which Cllr Bennett said would see investment in excess of £750m over a ten-year period.

This would include an additional £6 million to help combat climate change and £31 million to maintain and improve roads and pavements.

Cllr Bennett said:

While the short term picture looks positive, we are mindful that future funding is uncertain and already know we are likely to face a £10m funding gap by 2025.

This is why we need to make decisions now to ensure we are ready for the challenges ahead.

The reserves we hold provide some mitigation to these risks and the level of reserves we hold are projected to be £91.7m by March 2026, with only £25m unallocated or held on behalf of others. Compared to our gross budget of £920m, this is not an excessive amount.

Cllr Bennett

However, it was the surpluses which formed the basis of the cross-party amendment, put forward jointly by the Council’s Green, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Independent Democrat groups.

The amendment would have seen £6.176m of extra investment into a wide range of programmes, mostly drawn from the 2022/23 surplus.

The amendment’s investments included: a £600,000 investment over three years into Vehicle Activated Signage (VAS) to reduce speeding; a £400,000 investment over four years into pavements and dropped curbs; and a £750,000 investment in a mental health training programme for teachers, among many others.

Moving the amendment, Liberal Democrat leader David Tutt said:

This is, I believe, a maturer form of politics.

Instead of arguing the toss over small elements of budgets, we have come together and put together what we believe is an alternative to the Conservative proposals that Cllr Bennett has just put in front of us.

This is a budget for the people of our county.

Cllr Tutt

There was criticism that the funding proposals did not come forward through the council’s Reconciling Policy, Performance and Resources (RPPR) process.

Had it done so, Conservatives argued, the proposals could have been scrutinised in detail and may have been included in the main proposals.

Following further debate, the cross-party amendment was defeated, largely on party lines, with 28 votes against and 21 votes for.

With the amendment defeated, the main budget proposal was agreed on similar lines, with opposition councillors abstaining rather than voting against.

Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner

On 28th January, the Sussex Police and Crime Panel gave its support to increasing the force’s precept by an average of £10 a year.

The 4.7 per cent increase – the maximum allowed without triggering a local referendum – would mean a Band D household would pay £10 more towards policing as part of their Council Tax bill, roughly equivalent to 83p more per month.

Katy Bourne, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), said:

Seventy-five per cent of all residences in Sussex are B and D or below. So 75 per cent of those council tax payers will not pay more than the 83p a month I am proposing. I think it is really important that we recognise that.

The other side to think about is the fact we are still the seventh lowest precepted county in the country. So even with this 83p proposed increase, as a taxpayer you will pay the seventh lowest amount in England and Wales.

Our Government grant isn’t the biggest — I think we rank 12th or 13th lowest — and the amount we are getting from Government is still frozen.

One of the few areas that I can actually, with your support, make a change and put more into policing, so we do not move backwards, is around the precept.

Mrs Bourne, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner

Overall, the precept increase would be expected to bring in an additional £7.9m. But even with additional precept income and Government funding, the panel heard that Sussex Police will need to find £5m worth of savings in order to set a balanced budget in 2022/23.

The majority of these savings are to be drawn from “ongoing departmental savings plans and contractual changes”, although some would also come from ‘vacancy management’.

This was of concern to some panel members, who had noted that the current Sussex Police vacancy rate was around 7.7 per cent.

While the precept increase received unanimous support from the Panel, concerns were raised about the impact of year-on-year increases in Council Tax bills across the county, particularly given the looming cost of living squeeze.

In response Mrs Bourne said she ‘did not underestimate’ the financial pressures likely to be faced by many Sussex residents, but highlighted the Council Tax reduction schemes available to the lowest paid.

Mrs Bourne also said she was also lobbying with PCCs for the Government to carry out a funding review for police forces around the country.

The commissioner also spoke about plans for continued recruitment in 2022/23, with plans to hire 192 new police officers.

According to meeting papers, the force would aim to have 3,096 full time equivalent officers by the end of March 2023. By way of comparison, the force had 2,959 full time equivalent officers at the end of March 2012.

Crowborough Town Council

On 11th January, Crowborough Town Council met to agree its budget for next year and set the their share of the Council Tax Bill.

In 2022/23 the Council anticipate it will spend a total of £1.8m. Just under £230,000 will come from income – including rent of Pine Grove for the library and business centre, rent from caravan site, hire of football pitches, allotment rents and burial fees. Leaving just under £1.6m in net expenditure.

The Council agreed a zero increase. (The increase was 2.2% in 2021/22.) In order to meet the spending requests made by each of the Council’s committees – £52,000 will come from the sale of the old Town Hall leaving £14,000 to be taken from the Council’s General Reserve. Without taking money from reserves, the Council Tax would need to have been increased by a 4.6% or £7.49 per annum on Band D property.

The Council also has £1m in earmarked reserves (as of Dec 21). £230,000 has been committed to projects such as the new cemetery and bike track. This money is mainly from developers to pay for infrastructure (Section 106 payments and Community Infrastructure Levy).

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