Councils receive cash – and warning

PARISH councils around Bognor Regis have been urged to sort out their finances.

The plea came from Arun District Council’s cabinet members as they agreed to take their support of the councils to £1m in two years.

The cabinet decided to repeat this year’s £431,000 grant between all 31 parish councils across the district for the next financial year.

It will make up for a government-enforced cut in the number of households on which they calculate their share of the total council 
tax bills.

Without Arun’s support, parishes would have been faced with putting up their portion of the tax to overcome the cut in their tax bases.

But Cllr Paul Dendle warned the support would have to end. “This situation emphasises the considerable pain local government has had from central government as regards to its grant.

“We can do this for a certain while but, sooner or later, there will have to be some adjustments.

“It’s for the town and parish councils to get their finances in shape. We are doing that.”

Cllr Ricky Bower said a ‘desperate need’ existed for the parishes to take a close look at their financial arrangements.

“Arun and West Sussex County Council have gone through a financial restructuring of some sort or another in the past two to three years.

“The parishes have not had that requirement. Now is the time to do that and to look to see if the services they are providing are essential and can be sustained in the long term.”

Cllr Gillian Brown, the council’s leader, said: “It’s right we give the councils confirmation the grant is there for next year.

“But it is also right we have this conversation with them – they will have to look at their finances because we don’t know if this grant will be there in future years.”

The amount being given includes £131,109 to Bognor Regis and £15,267 to Bersted.

Arun head of finance Alan Peach said the early notice of the grant for 2014/15 would allow the councils to plan ahead. “These payments are entirely at Arun’s discretion,” he said.

“Any decision about payments for 2015/16 must wait until we have more information.”