Level of next year’s council tax rise for Rother residents debated

Council tax bill
Council tax bill

Rother council leaders have considered proposals to raise council tax by 2.99 per cent next year – increasing the annual bill of the average Band D home by £5.23.

The potential increase was discussed at a meeting of Rother District Council’s cabinet on Wednesday (December 19) as part of a report on the draft 2019/20 budget.

According to the report, the council expects to have to find around £653,000 of cuts and additional income during the 2019/20 financial year, as it adjusts to the total loss of income from central government grants.

Commenting on the report, the council’s portfolio holder for finance Lord Ampthill said: “Members are aware of course that we are no longer going to receive the Revenue Support Grant (RSG) and we will be wholly reliant on these four areas of revenue:  business rates; council tax; charges for services which we render; and income generation.

“Towards the end of the report, it points out the predicted use of cash reserves required to support us, which is not inconsiderable, in these next few years.

“In recent years we have underspent from time to time, but this now cannot be relied on.”

According to the report, Rother plans to draw down £5m from its reserves in 2019/20. Around £2.4m will go towards the council’s revenue budget while the remaining £2.6m will go to its capital expenditures.

The report notes that this use of cash reserves, to support spending on council services, is not considered to be ‘sustainable beyond 2020/21’.

It also highlights a number of risk areas, which could put additional financial pressure on the council.

These include a fall in the council’s planning service income and a rising demand for temporary accommodation for homeless families.

The draft budget report also noted the impact of the council’s new waste collection and street cleansing contract, which it is sharing with Wealden District Council and Hastings Borough Council.

According to the report, the new joint waste deal will ‘cost significantly more than the current contract’. To this end, the council has set aside £1.5m to cover its share of the contract costs.

Officers say they hope the Rother’s waste partnership costs will not reach this level, but say it is unlikely to know before the final budget is set.

Following discussion, cabinet members agreed to move ahead with the draft revenue budget proposals. As a result, they will be considered in further detail by the council’s overview and scrutiny committee in January.

A final decision on the 2019/20 budget will be made in February.