Horsham District Council revealed it is working on another reorganisation to achieve further cost savings this week, a move which could result in more job losses.
Top of the list was sharing services with neighbouring authorities while other ways to cut the tax included reducing the length of some officers’ reports and using animals to graze council land to trim grass cutting costs.
In this respect HDC stated it was ‘several steps ahead of the Taxpayers Alliance’, referring to its two llamas Bridget and Rowena, purchased in 2011 by a Heritage lottery grant, who graze council countryside sites including Chesworth Farm, Leechpool and Owlbeech Woods.
HDC has also taken many other significant steps to ensure council tax has remained the same since 2010/11, despite the continued reduction of grants from Government, which has meant the budget deficit has so far not been passed on to the district’s residents.
However, according to survey results revealed by the BBC yesterday, almost a third of all English councils plan to increase council tax next year, despite cash incentives from Government to continue to a freeze.
The County Times has asked HDC if the Conservative-run local authority will be amongst those now deciding to increase council tax. If it does, a rise of up to 1.9 per cent is most likely, because any figure above 2 per cent requires a local referendum.
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In relation to what measures HDC has already taken to ensure it has frozen the tax for the past three years, a spokesperson said: “The Council has already implemented a number of the suggestions put forward by the Taxpayers Alliance: it shares a number of services with its neighbouring authorities including the collection of Council Tax, the payment of housing benefits and the provision of the procurement function.
“Horsham District Council will continue to improve how it commission services to make further savings.
“The Council has also reviewed the terms and conditions of Council employees, which has resulted in further savings estimated at £200k and vacancies are closely monitored by the senior management team.
“The Council is currently consulting on a reorganisation that will result in further savings and it is planning to introduce a contact centre to reduce the cost of call handling and improving its website to ensure that it can handle as many transactions online as possible.
“Pressure will continue and Horsham District Council will review all suggestions for cost reductions, including those put forward by the Taxpayer Alliance and Eric Pickles’ 50 ways to save.”
HDC is also currently advertising a vacancy for a Procurement Officer whose role will be split between Horsham, Crawley and Mid Sussex Councils,
The job description states: “You will take a leading role in improving value for money through joint working, innovation, service redesign and continuous improvement.
“You will also be involved in the implementation of procurement systems across the Councils.”
Does such a position herald the beginnings of a local Government structure here more akin to a west West Sussex unitary authority?
For more on the potential council tax increase for Horsham residents, and other issues raised above, see next Thursday’s County Times (November 14, 2013).
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