Grant is set to be reduced over time

TOWN and parish councils will see funding they receive from Arun District Council cut by a third each year for the next two years.

Alan Peach, Arun’s head of finance and property, told its cabinet last Monday savings would have to be made due to the reduction of the government’s revenue support grant.

“I do appreciate the problems this may cause the town and parish council’s but it must be recognised that this money does not exist anymore,” said Mr Peach.

“We can clearly demonstrate the money is not there anymore and really I think it is down to us all to support frontline services.”

Mr Peach warned the grant was likely to shrink further adding Arun had continued to pass funds down which many councils had not.

“We are the only council in West Sussex to be paying the full amount allocated in 2013/14 so we are clearly in a minority in making this payment,” he said.

Cllr Terence Chapman said: “I well remember an elected member making an impassioned plea at the full council when this was first discussed stating that we were robbing Littlehampton in this case of its own money and I was somewhat astonished by that.

“It is quite clear from Mr Peach’s paper that is not the case and time has moved on. I think these recommendations are prudent and they safeguard the wider interests of the council tax payers.”

Cllr Paul Dendle said there had been a lot of challenges placed on Arun’s budget over the last five years, adding parish and town councils would now need to prioritise to protect frontline services.

“Obviously we have had our spending or grant cut by up to 40 per cent and that is a considerable shock to the system for an authority like ourselves and we have in turn taken that in our stride,” said Cllr Dendle.

“We have reduced staffing by up to 15 per cent and we have had to look at a lot of difficult decisions and restructure.

“The thing with parishes is that they haven’t really had any reduction in their funding. If anything, some of the parish councils have actually put up their precept when county and district councils have had to freeze them.”

Council leader Gillian Brown said: “The point I would make is that Arun has had to make some very strenuous efforts to prioritise our spending and become efficient so we can protect our frontline services. I think we have been more than generous and responsible in giving at least two years’ advance warning to town and parish councils the situation can’t continue at the same rate because the money is simply not there.”

The cabinet agreed the reduction, which means £287,340 will be paid in 2015/16 and £143,675 in 2016/17, with nothing after that. A sum of £431,000 was previously agreed for 2014/15.