Lewes council tax rise and budget are backed

Southover House SUS-180628-084648008
Southover House SUS-180628-084648008

Lewes council leaders have backed a 1.99 per cent increase to council tax as part of the authority’s annual budget proposals.

At a meeting on Monday (February 11), Lewes District Council’s Conservative-led cabinet formally gave its backing to the 2019/20 budget.

The proposals include plans to increase the council’s income by £200,000, cut spending by around £400,000 and increase its share of council tax by 1.99 per cent – meaning a Band D property will pay the council at least £187.08 in 2019/20.

The council says the 1.99 per cent increase falls below the maximum amount allowed by government – 2.99 per cent – and represents an average increase of around 7p per week.

Speaking at the meeting, council leader Andy Smith said: “After due consideration we will only be increasing council tax for Lewes District Council by 1.99 per cent. I should point out that is one per cent less than Government would allow us to.

“That has been an interesting decision and is based on a number of factors. We are managing the increased demand on our services and are also managing unavoidable growth in our costs.

“We have continued to improve our ability to create additional income [and] put in a contingency and a reserve managing the uncertainty of Brexit.

“Having considered all of these things – and the reduction in Government grants – we consider the 1.99 per cent will suit us going into the next year.”

The proposals will be considered at a full council meeting on February 26, when councillors set the 2019/20 budget.

While the largest party on Lewes District Council, the  Conservative group does not have overall control of the council chamber – holding 20 out of 41 seats.

As a result, opposition groups are expected to put forward a number of amendments for consideration.

The council’s Liberal Democrat group has revealed its amendments ahead of the meeting, including: the setting up of a £10,000 citizen’s science project to monitor air quality within the district; a £10,000 biodiversity project; and replacing litter bins across the district with dual recycling bins, which is set to cost £28,000.

The Liberal Democrat group is also proposing a project to create pop-up spaces within Lewes and Newhaven to encourage new businesses to come into the district.