Horsham District Council’s budget proposals

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DIFFICULT decisions are soon to be made by Horsham District Councillors about Horsham District Council’s budget for the next financial year (2012/13).

In a press release, the council said facing the current economic climate and ongoing cuts in Government grant, significant progress has been made to be as efficient as possible.

In the last five years it has saved £7 million whilst maintaining services.

The council has also kept council tax amongst the lowest in the country over this period and has introduced the successful Acorn Plus refuse and recycling household collection service.

Owing to the council’s financial efficiency, it said it is also already spending considerably less than other local councils at £96.66 per Horsham district resident per year compared with an average of £131.82 per head for West Sussex district councils and £142.53 for all district councils in the country.

Even within this context and like many other councils in the country, Horsham District Council’s budget for next year (2012/13) is under significant pressure and district councillors are soon to debate how to save £1.3 million from its £12.8 million net budget for the forthcoming year.

Proposals for the next year include saving £500,000 from rationalisation and efficiencies at the council and by sharing services with other authorities, reducing discretionary rate relief by £50,000 while introducing a new self-scoring award system, ceasing the £70,000 subsidy to Hop Oast park and ride and increasing car parking charges to fund investment in improvements and an additional contribution to the budget.

Even with these measures, the council will still need to find additional ways to bridge a remaining gap in its finances of £300,000 in 2012/13 and then up to a further £1 million over the following two years.

The matter will be debated at the next full meeting of Horsham District Council on 19 October 19.

Speaking ahead of the task facing elected councillors, Mr Robert Nye, leader of Horsham District Council, said: “The pressure on public finances continues and we are taking steps to ensure we maintain and improve the quality of our services against a backdrop of ever reducing Government grant whilst keeping council tax down.

“We had already committed to a second year with no council tax increase before the Chancellor announced his intention to help councils do so and we welcome his help.

“We have identified most of the steps that are needed to close our budget gap next year and we will continue to consider ways we can complete the exercise during the autumn.

“Looking beyond 2012, we are preparing plans for more significant changes to the organisation and the way we deliver services and to generate our own resources through imaginative uses of our property assets.

“These plans will take time and resources to deliver but will ensure we can meet the major financial challenges we will face in the medium term and beyond.”

For the full implications of the council’s proposals, see the County Times on Thursday.