The budget consultation by Worthing Borough Council asked whether residents would prefer a further Council Tax freeze or not.
Many bar room pundits would consider this a ‘no brainer’ with few opting for an increase but those pundits would be wrong. The question was whether residents would prefer “a small increase which will help the Councils protect priority services” or “to freeze Council Tax for the fourth year in a row and cut services”. 60.9% of respondents preferred the small increase with just 39.1% opting for a freeze.
Yet Worthing’s Cabinet on Monday made the decision to freeze accepting the recommendation of the cross-party Overview & Scrutiny Committee from the previous week. The job of the Overview & Scrutiny Committee is to hold the Cabinet to account and to help develop new policies. Sometimes the Cabinet takes notice as in this case but often does not. Worthing’s decisions are in the hands of just five men and one woman.
Worthing Daily applauds residents putting services before their pockets but wonders whether they are thinking of West Sussex County Council provided services rather than Worthing Borough. West Sussex is responsible for schools, adult care, youth services, street lighting and most roads including all those potholes – the most important services . And West Sussex has already taken the decision to freeze their portion of Council Tax. For every pound Council Tax you pay 77p goes to West Sussex and just 14p to Worthing Borough Council – the remaining 9p goes to the Sussex Police Authority.
For that 14p Worthing Borough collects your rubbish, provides leisure services including the Splashpoint pool and the theatres and looks after parks and green spaces.
With a reshuffle of the financial pack of cards Worthing Borough Council holds, Worthing Daily believes those 60% of residents wishing to protect services and those 40% wanting a freeze could both have their wish. Communities & Local Government Supremo Eric Pickles has said that councils only need to hold 5% of the annual revenue spend in reserves. Worthing Borough will hold an estimated 8% at March 31st 2014 – that should give room for manoeuvre.
And why not quite? It’s because Sussex Police Authority plan a 3.6% increase.