£5 council tax rise is agreed to protect vital services: Chichester District Council
The decision was made at Chichester District Council’s Full Council meeting on 8 March 2022, where a £5 (3%) rise was agreed. This means that the average Band D council taxpayer will pay £3.38 a week for more than 80 services provided by the council. This amounts to just 48 pence a day.
Councillor Peter Wilding, Cabinet Member for Finance at Chichester District Council, says: “We are keeping council tax as low as we can, and we still remain one of the lowest charging authorities in the country, but we need to ensure that vital services continue and that we are providing support to those people in our communities that need it the most.
“The pandemic has continued to have a huge impact upon our finances, but through our efficiency savings programmes and new income generation, we have managed to protect frontline services and invest in new priority services. We have worked really hard to close the budget gap from £2.1m last year to £808,000 this year, which we are incredibly proud of.”
Following the creation of the Future Services Framework earlier this year, in which services were prioritised to help plan for the years ahead, it is anticipated the budget gap will be closed completely within the next five years.
Peter says: “Helping those most in need is a top priority. During the pandemic we made sure that all rough sleepers were brought into settled accommodation, and I’m pleased to say that we have been awarded £324,000 so that we can continue with this important work.
“We have also allocated £3.7 million to support various housing initiatives including disabled facilities grants and affordable housing grants so that we can support those who need it the most.
“This month we will also be opening additional short stay accommodation for people facing homelessness in the Chichester District. We are delivering 17 new flats within a building that has excellent eco-friendly credentials. We have already refurbished an additional three flats – all of which are in use. Adding to our existing temporary accommodation is going to make a huge difference to those who find themselves at risk of homelessness We have also agreed to maintain our council tax support scheme, meaning that those who are most vulnerable will not be affected by any increase in council tax, and we have agreed to jointly fund a council tax hardship fund with West Sussex County Council.”
Supporting local businesses has also been a key priority. The council has issued more than £12 million in government business rate and discretionary grants. It has also utilised some of the government funding for wider business support to enable businesses to join a virtual high street platform.
Peter adds: “We are also investing £6 million in to redeveloping our St James Industrial Estate to offer 30 new industrial units and these are on track to be ready later this year. And we have recently approved a further £71,000 from Pooled Business Rates monies to fund another year of business support grants. Our commercial investments remain strong and the returns we receive from our commercial premises help us to maintain vital services to our communities.”
“We’re also developing an events programme to support local businesses and get people back into our city and towns. Cross Market & More – an innovative, quality mixed street market showcasing the best products from across the district – has been a huge success and we have invested in putting on more of these markets this year. The Summer Street Party has also been a popular addition.”
The upcoming Culture Spark cultural extravaganza is also being supported by Chichester District Council with funding and officer support. This celebration of major anniversaries of several of the district’s landmark cultural institutions is set to bring many people into the district.
“We recognise the positive contribution of private, voluntary and community sectors to our local communities and we have set aside £175k in our budget for grants to support them. We are also continuing to fund our successful ‘Choose Work’ programme that helps people to return to employment. And we are launching a social prescribing service for young people to help them recover from the impacts of the pandemic,” says Peter.
The environment remains another key priority for the council and over the past year great strides have been made in moving towards the targets in the Climate Change Action Plan.
“A considerable amount of existing and new funding is being invested to achieve our climate change targets”, says Peter. “£800,000 of capital funding is being used to purchase two new electric refuse freighters, while £1.3m will go towards the decarbonisation of Westgate Leisure Centre. An extra £56,000 has been set aside for additional staff in the Environment Strategy unit.”
The innovative HM Treasury funded-funded Trees Outside Woodlands project has delivered significant tree planting across the district thanks to a grant of almost £300,000. Over 8,000 free trees have been distributed to residents, community groups, schools, landowners and businesses across the district.
Peter adds: “Our Green Spaces team is now so in demand that we have agreed to employ an apprentice tree officer. And, having refreshed our Air Quality Action Plan and finalised our Chichester City Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan, we are well placed to bid for government and other forms of grant funding for projects to reduce air pollution and enhance the existing network of cycle and footpaths in the district. This is something we are very proud of.”
Significant funding has also been set aside to support the Local Plan Review to make sure that the plan can be finalised for submission as soon as possible this year. Over £100,000 of additional resources have also been invested in the Development Management service to continue to provide good quality and high performing planning services.
Chichester District Council collects all the council tax, but only keeps around a 9% share of this. The other 91% is then distributed to West Sussex County Council, The Police and Crime Commissioner, and parish councils.
Each of these public service providers make decisions about its council tax increases independently.
Residents are also being reminded that the Government has announced that most council taxpayers living in properties in tax bands A to D will receive a one-off payment of £150 to support households with rising energy bills. Customers who pay their council tax by direct debit will get this support quicker and are likely to receive the rebate in their bank account in April. Those who are not already paying for their council tax by direct debit, can set this up here: My Account.
Local authorities are due to receive discretionary funding to help those who are not eligible for the rebate and who need help with their energy bills. The council is still waiting to hear more about this and will keep their web pages updated: £150 energy bills rebate 2022.
Date: 9 March 2022