Senior councillor laments lack of council tax rise freedom as residents face ‘maximum’ increased bills

Brian Donnelly, cabinet member for finance and assets, said the council had to be 'proactive as well as prudent'
Brian Donnelly, cabinet member for finance and assets, said the council had to be 'proactive as well as prudent'

Cabinet members agreed to increase Horsham District Council’s share of council tax on Thursday – but one senior councillor lamented not having freedom to up it more.

The council is set to charge Band D rated properties £145.60 a year from April – £5 more than last year.

Councillor Brian Donnelly told cabinet members it was the ‘maximum’ increase allowed by the Government, without triggering a referendum.

The cabinet member for finance and assets said, however: “That is one of the factors that I think the Government could lift. I think councils should be allowed to increase council tax by as much as they wish, within reason.

“As is happens even with that increase we are still going to be the lowest charger of council tax in West Sussex and we are in the bottom ten per cent of councils throughout the country.”

Mr Donnelly said taxpayers had benefitted from several council tax freezes in recent years, something he thought was ‘not necessarily the greatest idea’. The council tax proposals were among HDC’s annual budget, which will be debated by full council on February 21.

Mr Donnelly noted the planned increase in town centre parking charges, describing them as ‘very reasonable’.

His view came amid widespread criticism of the plans on the County Times’ Facebook page.

He also described a £2 uplift in fees for green waste collection charges – up to £39 if paid online or direct debit and £41.50 if paid via the contact centre – as a good deal.

He said: “It is a very, very well appreciated service by the community and when you benchmark it councils in our area charge up to £70 for the same service. It’s not a bad deal at all.”

The budget includes £229,000 of grants to voluntary groups, the largest being £94,000 to Citizens Advice.

The capital programme for the next financial year is £24.3 million.

The majority of this has already been approved in preceding years for projects including new leisure centre at Broadbridge Heath and Piries Place car park in Horsham town centre.

Residents’ council tax bills are also set to include West Sussex County Council’s increased precept by 4.95 per cent, while Sussex Police will add £12 to its precept for Band D properties.