Tax freeze as Arun tightens its purse strings

Arun District Council's leader Gill Brown
Arun District Council's leader Gill Brown

A ‘FIRM grip’ on the purse strings has led to a council tax freeze for residents across the Littlehampton area for the fifth year running.

A special meeting of all of Arun District Council’s members last week agreed the authority’s share of the council tax would not increase for the coming year.

Roger Nash

Roger Nash

Council leader Gillian Brown told members Arun had ‘borne the brunt of cuts in public spending’ but she believed the budget was ‘deliverable’ and would put the council in a ‘strong position’.

“It is clear we face many challenges ahead and we need to show imagination and determination to find new ways of achieving the goals we have set ourselves and to continue to serve our local communities,” said Mrs Brown.

“The budget for 2015/16 demonstrates we have kept a firm grip on our finances, allowing the council to deliver a massive range of services for just over £3 per week for a band D property or 44p a day,” she added.

Mrs Brown said the prudent budget would still allow for investment.

“This may be the fifth year consecutively that Arun has frozen its council tax, but all that is being done is that you are robbing Peter to fed Paul.”

Roger Nash, Arun Labour leader

“I have consistently told council that we would use some of our balances to invest in delivering a better district for those who live, work in or visit Arun.

“We have done this and will continue to do so,” said Mrs Brown.

Planned investment includes the upgrading of CCTV cameras, investment in play areas, replacement of beach huts, as well as the planned regeneration.

However, Labour group leader Roger Nash warned spending from balances could not continue indefinitely.

Mr Nash said: “This may be the fifth year consecutively that Arun has frozen its council tax, but all that is being done is that you are robbing Peter to fed Paul.

“Instead of facing increases in their council tax people are paying more in their income tax.

“It is all very well to say you are freezing tax and it is good for PR but is not a way forward.

“Using money from balances can’t go on forever. We have to draw a line, and as a council be much smarter with our money and how we use it.”

Mr Nash called on the council to use its ‘imagination’ and look at ways of generating income.

He suggested the set up of an Arun enterprise fund.

Leader of the opposition Lib Dem Francis Oppler said he was ‘disappointed’ with the poor turn out from councillors.

“I have to say, and this is cross party, that I am disappointed by the number of missing members,” he said.

He called for £2million to be taken from reserve funds to be used for community-based projects across the district

Councillor Jim Brooks, group leader of the independents, said he was glad to see spending on tourism was included in the budget but this needed to ‘remain high on the list of priorities’.

While Trevor Bence praised regeneration projects.

“It is superb to see things like the new café for Hotham Park coming to fruition. Bognor can become a premier resort for residents of Arun and visitors alike,” he said.