Residents face the prospect of being hit in the pocket because of a £1.6 million hole in local budgets caused by the Government “passing the buck” by withdrawing financial support to Horsham District Council.
Horsham councillors must decide in February how to fill the gap. Three of the suggestions to be considered are a council tax increase, a £1.50 all day Sunday and bank holiday charge in Horsham town car parks, and changes in waste collection service.
The shock news came among what the council called “a flurry of ministerial announcements” just before the start of the Christmas break.
It has brought about a disagreement between the Conservative-dominated district council and the Conservative controlled Government over the cuts. One councillor says the Government has moved the problem of cutting spending to local councils.
The Government confirmed that within two years Horsham will lose all the £1.6m in revenue support grant it currently receives from central Government through taxation and it will need to become totally self- sufficient. This reduction in grant is in addition to cuts totalling £1.1m over the past three years.
Leader of the council Cllr Ray Dawe said: “We have one of the lowest council tax levels in the country. At the same time we have been able to maintain a high level of service to our residents.
“However, while we shall persist with trying to find further efficiency savings and minimise any increased charges, the options for reducing costs are becoming more limited.
“Effectively, in his aim of reducing the national deficit, the Chancellor has simply moved a problem on to local councils. What is clear is that while the council has a sound financial position for the short term, unless we take action now as the Government grant disappears, we shall have a huge deficit in the future. Councillors will therefore need to discuss a medium term strategy of how to tackle this when they meet for our annual budget meeting in February 2016.”
At a full council meeting before Christmas the council confirmed its commitment to a new £12.3m leisure centre at Broadbridge Heath and in reaching that decision councillors were very aware that such a reduction in Government grant was probable. At their meeting, it was made clear to them that the council will need to look at how it can bridge this huge loss in government support.