Council delight at tax bill freeze

WITH the onset of a nationwide tax rise in the New Year, Eastbourne residents will welcome news of next year’s council tax freeze.

While VAT is set to increase by 2.5 per cent to 20 per cent across Britain on January 4, Eastbourne Borough Council says there will be no rise in its portion of the council tax and promises frontline services will remain unaffected.

The decision will trigger a payout from the Government after it promised an award for all local authorities able to bring in a zero per cent council tax settlement.

The award equates to 2.5 per cent of the council’s grant for 2011/12 and means Eastbourne will receive £200,000.

Councillor Gill Mattock, the Cabinet portfolio holder for financial services at the council, said, “I’m delighted we have been able to achieve a council tax freeze at a time of severe financial pressures.

“There will be no impact on frontline services and no need to draw on our reserves.

“Our medium and longer-term financial planning has transformed the council finances and attracted a very positive response from our external auditors.

“We have tackled the big challenges head-on and refused to shy away from the issues that some authorities have ignored.”

The Eastbourne Borough Council element of the council tax is only a small proportion of the overall bill.

Using a typical 2010/11 Band D property as an example, the total bill amounts to £1,602.77, with East Sussex County Council accounting for £1,158.30, Eastbourne Borough Council £224.19, Sussex Police Authority £138.42 and East Sussex Fire and Rescue £81.86.

Council leader David Tutt said, “We recognise every local authority and public sector organisation has a role to play in the reduction of the UK’s financial deficit, but believe it must be achieved without impacting on the most vulnerable people we support.

“Eastbourne Borough Council has been able to deliver the budget by taking money out of building costs, which in turn has allowed us to invest in services.”

There now appears to be a war of words brewing between the Liberal Democrat group, which controls the council, and the Conservative councillors in the minority group who say it is thanks to the government the council tax will not rise.

Conservative finance spokesman councillor Graham Marsden said he welcomed the news ‘David Cameron’s Government has ensured Eastbourne residents will not face an increase in their council tax next year’.

He said, “Although the overall grant has been reduced, an additional grant of £201,000 will ensure any inflationary increases faced by the borough council will be covered in 2011/2012.

“A similar sum will be provided each year until 2014/2015 to continue that support for the council’s budget. This is excellent news and will help local residents as they cope with these very challenging times.”