Some Horsham district Tories ‘support council tax rise’

JPCT 130312 Park North, Hosham District Council office. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 130312 Park North, Hosham District Council office. Photo by Derek Martin

An Independent councillor has said some Horsham District Conservative councillors have told him they would have supported past rises in council tax, but have chosen instead to tow the party line.

George Cockman (Ind, Steyning) reiterated his long-standing opposition to freezing council tax in a meeting last week adding later that ‘there are people among the Tories who would have supported’ putting council tax up in previous years.

He said: “Low taxes are a Tory policy. It’s what they are really driven by. There are people in the (Horsham district) Tories who have said they would have supported me.

“I can remember one very long standing guy who told me he would have supported me, but they go with the majority and stick to the party line.”

He said several former officers have also said the council should have put council tax up when they had the chance.

“I won’t pretend council tax is the only way and Horsham has been extraordinarily imaginative in raising income.

“It’s also about the care to our staff

His comments came after last week’s full council meeting when he members that the council would have had more than £460,000 extra in the bank this year if it had raised council tax by just 0.5 per cent each year over the past 12 years.

He said: “I asked a finance officer how much we would be getting if we had 0.5 per cent rise in council tax every year since the return of Conservative control in 1999 and I was staggered by the figure. For the current year we would have an £467,000 increase and that’s just this year.

“I remind you that while we are not raising council tax we are allowing our income threshold to slip and slip and slip.”

Godfrey Newman (LDem, Forest) also said the council is paying for its past decisions.

“Because we have been artificially holding down tax levels we are now suffering more than we should be. Holding down tax assists those who have relatively low incomes - whether on benefits or not. However HDC’s share of the total tax accounts for less then ten per cent.

“Whatever we agree we must not live in this cocoon we have previously lived in and must see it as reality not just for the medium term but longer.”

Cabinet member for finance and resources Roger Arthur told members last week that they were looking at the options for council tax and they would be making a decision in December.