Residents will be paying an extra £5 on average in tax from May after Hastings council rubber-stamped its budget on Wednesday (February 24).
Labour members unanimously supported Hastings Borough Council’s budget for the next two years but it was opposed by every Conservative councillor.
Leader Peter Chowney attacked the central government funding cuts for putting immense pressure on the local authority but said the council tax increase was recommended by Whitehall.
“No matter what the government throws at us we will be ambitious and we will keep fighting for Hastings,” he said.
The £5 increase, or 2.08 per cent, is the maximum rise allowed without a referendum, meaning an average band-D property owner will pay £245.33 per year for the borough’s share of tax.
This will generate more than £6m but even with other sources of funding will not be enough to cover the council’s £15.7m expenditure, resulting in a £90,000 deficit.
Nearly £900,000 of the council’s reserves will be used to support the 2016/17 budget which Cllr Chowney said was not sustainable but necessary thanks to the 54 per cent reduction in government grants.
Opposition leader Liam Atkins proposed several amendments to the budget, including freezing council tax, which he said would put more into economic regeneration.
Labour accused the Tories of proposing an illegal budget as the officer said he not previously seen the amendments and they did not add up. Cllr Chowney said the amendments were an insult to ‘fag packets’ but Martin Clarke (Con) insisted they did not affect the expenditure or income and were suggested to show how freezing tax and cutting staff can fund their plans for regeneration.
The authority’s corporate plan was also adopted which deputy leader Kim Forward said ‘put people first’ and showed they are ‘winning the battle for Hastings’.
The Tories suggested a number of amendments to the plan, including a new vision for the council, as Robert Cooke (Con) said the authority ‘needs to stand on its own two feet’. All but the addition of the word religion to the council’s values were defeated.
Michael Wincott (Lab) did not see the point in the Conservatives amendments which were ‘school-boy errors’.
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