County council set to freeze tax

GOVERNMENT direction is likely to be obeyed by West Sussex County Council, as the cabinet recommended freezing council tax for the third successive year.

However, the council still has close to £200m of usable reserves, which is projected to rise to more than £215m by the end of this financial year.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, leader of the county council Louise Goldsmith said the council had worked hard to take the long term-approach, enduring criticism from some quarters for saving money and making cuts.

Christine Field, cabinet member for public protection, praised the strategy, and said: “I look forward to this sort of approach continuing and taking a medium-term view and not a bit-by-bit approach.” Cllr Goldsmith agreed, adding it was ‘a better way of working’.

Cabinet member for finance and resources Michael Brown said: “These have been difficult times for everyone, but I am pleased to say the county council has risen to that challenge.

“Although we have had to make savings, we have also taken the opportunity to ensure services are running as efficiently as possible, while still meeting the needs of residents and businesses.”

Comments were made on the budget for the next financial year, and Peter Montyn, cabinet member for highways and transport, highlighted there was a 52.2 per cent increase in the amount to be spent on highway maintenance, rising from nearly £15m to more than £22m.

Cllr Goldsmith said the increase was an example of the council listening to residents concerns: “An increase of 52.2 per cent means we’re very anxious to keep our roads in good condition,” she said.

In recent weeks, the council has also dedicated more than £8m to tackle flooding in the area.

Known as Operation Watershed, Cllr Goldsmith said emergency spending such as this was one of the reasons the county council embarked on its three-year plan to save £79m each year. The final vote on the budget will be held at the next full council meeting on February 15.