Hastings council tax rise and budget cuts are backed

Hastings Borough Council
Hastings Borough Council

Hastings council leaders have backed plans to increase council tax by 2.99 per cent as part of proposals for the 2019/20 budget.

At a meeting on Monday (February 11), Hastings Borough Council’s Labour-led cabinet formally gave its backing to proposals for the 2019/20 budget.

The full proposals include a council tax increase of 2.99 per cent, cuts of up to £1.43m, introducing an additional council tax charge on empty properties and drawing money from reserves to cover a £1.75m budget deficit.

Council leader Peter Chowney said: “It has been a difficult year. We have had to make substantial savings, making any more in one year would be too difficult.

“We have had to use reserves and we will have to look at it again next year.

“But our income generation, through commercial property and through the other things we do, has brought in over £700,000. With those in the pipeline, it will be about £1m or more.

“Without that we would be facing substantially higher cuts, so I am very pleased we have been able to do that.”

Despite cuts of up to £1.43m and increasing  income, the council still faces a deficit of £1,747,000 for 2019/20. To address this the council is to draw money from reserves, emptying its transition reserves (money given by government to ease spending cuts).

According to officer reports, the council would be unable to draw from reserves next year as it is expected to face an even larger deficit in 2020/21 – with an early estimate of £2.436m.

While the budget proposals won the backing of the Labour-controlled cabinet, it was opposed by Conservative councillors who sit as voting members.

Conservative group leader Rob Lee said: “[The transition reserves] are literally intended to transition the council from being a higher-spending council to a lower-spending council.

“However, I would point out that our expenditure is actually going up. It is transitioning us from a higher-spending council to an even higher-spending council.

“Despite all our good working relationships and seeing eye-to-eye between the two political groups on many things [this is where] we separate. When it comes down to the money, what our priorities are and how the resources should be managed.”

Councillors are consider the proposals at a budget meeting on Wednesday, February 20.