£5 council tax rise plus use of reserves is agreed to protect vital services across Chichester District

Chichester District Councillors have agreed to increase the average council tax bill by £5 for a Band D property and use reserves for the first time in years in order to protect vital services across the district.

The decision was made at Chichester District Council’s Full Council meeting on Tuesday 2 March, where a £5 (3%) rise was agreed. This means that the average Band D council tax payer will pay just over £3 a week for the 80 plus services provided by the council – 47 pence a day.

“Like many other organisations, our council’s finances have been significantly affected by the coronavirus pandemic,” explains Councillor Peter Wilding, Cabinet Member for Finance at Chichester District Council. “During this time we have been working hard to adapt and review what we are doing in order to support our communities, so that we could minimise the financial impact on our residents.

“Over the past year we have delivered significant amounts of support to people across the district. This has included supporting vulnerable residents and keeping them safe to issuing grants to businesses and working to reduce homelessness.

“Council tax is just one of a number of ways in which we fund the services in our district. Fees and charges also help pay for services but these have been badly hit over the past year as a result of the pandemic. While we have managed to access some financial support from the Government to ease the pressure, we’ve also had to dip into council reserves and will be using just over £2 million this year to plug the gap – this is the first time that we have had to do this for many years.

“Councils have a legal duty to deliver a balanced budget which is why we have had to use reserves this time. As part of our Corona Virus Recovery Plan we have put in place a series of measures that will return us to a balanced financial position without the use of reserves over the medium term. This includes further savings and introducing other ways of generating income.

“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 who need it the most.

“We are also maintaining our council tax support scheme so that those who are most vulnerable in our communities will not receive any increase.”

Chichester District Council provides more than 80 different services across the district including. During the pandemic, as well as continuing to provide its normal day-to-day services, including collecting waste and recycling and determining planning applications it has carried out a wide range of work to support people and businesses:

• Reducing rough sleeping, accessing funding for additional rough sleeper accommodation and providing wider support.

• Starting work on a project to provide 17 extra flats for people who are homeless and working to increase short-stay accommodation.

• Identifying and addressing gaps in volunteer provision.

• Supporting West Sussex County Council’s Community Hub.

• Supporting more than 100 people with essential shopping and medication deliveries.

• Holding weekly welfare chats with vulnerable residents.

• Issuing more than £47 million in business rate and discretionary grants.

• Employing Covid Information Officers and Covid Ambassadors to offer support to businesses so that they are COVID-Secure for staff and customers.

• Helping businesses adapt the way they work during the pandemic.

• Providing social distancing signage.

• Providing £500,000 for grant schemes to help eligible businesses and community groups with their recovery plans.

• Issuing free pavement licences to eligible hospitality businesses.

• Extending our £699,000 Council Tax hardship fund to support those who need extra help.

• Continuing to support Chichester Festival Theatre and Pallant House Gallery.

• Commissioning an economic and social value impact study with the district’s arts organisations.

• Trebling our funding to Visit Chichester to £150,000 to help boost the tourism sector post-pandemic.

• Moving forward with the redevelopment of our St James’ Industrial Estate to help boost economic growth.

• Supporting businesses to convert easily to take-away only and allowing overnight deliveries for food and essential products.

• Addressing complaints around social distancing and COVID regulations.

• Making sure that people are well informed of the support that is available.

Chichester District Council collects all of 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 makes decisions about its council tax increases independently, and will finalise their amounts for the next financial year in the coming weeks.

Notice Date: 05/03/2021