Acting for tax payers

WHILE I was pleased to see the County Times’ positive reports on our proposals for Horsham Town Hall, it was also interesting to see that some see ‘the council’ as the beneficiary, as the town hall is brought back to life.

Of course this does need to be put into perspective against the worst recession in living memory, which has caused the Government to reduce its grant to local authorities by 28 per cent in the last two years alone. Luckily for residents, Horsham District Council has cut out £7m of costs over the past five years, helping to limit council tax rises.

In that time, the number of staff employed has been reduced by over 100 and the ability to find even more productivity savings has become increasingly challenging. So, it should come as no surprise that this council is determined to obtain a reasonable return from the assets, that it manages on behalf of the taxpayer.

Through a combination of cost reduction and income generation, HDC has been able to sustain the provision of discretionary services, such as anti-social behaviour management and donations totalling £250,000 per annum to voluntary organisations.

We could of course raise council tax (or cease discretionary services) to cater for declining government grant, but I doubt if that would make residents happy. HDC’s net expenditure per head of population, is the second lowest of the 201 district councils in the UK, notwithstanding that its government grant allocation per capita, is one of the meanest.

Many in our district have difficulty in paying their council tax and we don’t intend to make things any worse for them. Our proposals for the town hall will not only improve HDC’s cost/income ratio, but will bring the area to life, while increasing local employment. I am sure that most of the 130,000 residents in the district would prefer that to an increase in council tax.

ROGER ARTHUR

(Con, Chanctonbury) cabinet member for finance, Horsham District Council

North Street, Horsham