VIDEO: Council tax freeze proves divisive in budget debate

Horsham District Council voted by majority last night (Thursday February 13) to freeze its portion of council tax in favour of a ‘user pays philosophy’ for its budget for next year and beyond.

In recent days the public have launched an attack on the plans for the council to start charging £29 a year for garden waste collections by signing a petition, which has had 180 signatures in just three days.

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

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

The Government is giving the council a reward grant for freezing council tax and with the estimated 40 per cent take up of paid for green waste collections and rise in parking charges, that would offset any money lost by freezing council tax.

Since HDC has one of the lowest council tax rates in the country, the Government has said it would have been able to make an increase of up to £5 a year without the need for a referendum.

But the Conservative-led council also plans to hike up Horsham town centre parking charges by up to 20 per cent ‘to help balance the budget’.

Leader of the opposition David Holmes, other Liberal Democrat councillors and Independent members George Cockman (Steyning) and Sheila Matthews (Henfield) said these were stealth taxes and would hurt the people of the Horsham district more than a £5 annual increase in council tax would.

Dr Holmes said the car parking charge for someone parking two and a half hours a week in the town centre, together with the green waste collection charge, would be the equivalent of a 12.4 per cent increase in council tax each year.

Conservative members stood by their pledge of a low tax philosophy, which they say helps the economy in the long run. They said it was a ‘sound’ and ‘responsible’ three year strategy for the district in difficult financial times.

Some parish councils will be increasing their precepts next financial year, so some of the district residents can expect to see a slight increase in their overall bill, but the Police Authority and West Sussex County Council are both freezing their elements of the council tax bill.

Read the full story and analysis in next week’s County Times. Meanwhile watch the video for Dr Holmes’s view of last night’s meeting let us know what you think by commenting below and vote in our online poll if you’re viewing this on a PC, Mac or tablet.

Leader of the council Ray Dawe’s views can be viewed by clicking the link below.