Cash raid to ‘hike council tax bills’

A CASH raid on Bognor Regis Town Council could cost households an extra 20 per cent on their council tax bills.

Arun District Council has decided to end a cash payment to the town council. The £131,000 will be cut in half for 2015/16 and vanish the year after.

Town mayor Paul Wells, speaking personally, said: “The council taxpayer of Bognor is being robbed by this decision.

“The removal of the grant would have a big impact on those in the four wards of Bognor paying the tax.

“We could be looking at a 20 per cent hike in the precept for those council taxpayers.

“Arun have acted in haste and have no idea what the financial arrangements will be for 2015 and beyond. Yet, they have made their decision on this incomplete information.”

The town council’s tax take from its residents is £779,169 – equal to £101.62 for a band D property. Other areas, such as Pagham, are also affected.

Arun’s decision has been formally challenged by Lib Dem councillor Dr James Walsh.

He has been backed by a cross-party group of councillors to call in the decision to be scrutinised by a committee on October 26 at Arun’s Littlehampton offices.

Cllr Dr Walsh said: “The reasons for the call in are quite simple.

“In effect, Arun is stealing money due to parish and town council to stuff into its already massive reserves of £32m. No consultation took place with any of the affected councils or, indeed, any local councillors outside Arun’s cabinet.

“The money is given by central government to district councils to pass on to parishes and towns to help offset the effect of other reductions in funding.

The local government minister had stated the money should be passed on, said Cllr Dr Walsh (LD, Beach), but was being ignored by Arun.

“The effect will be to either force up parish and town council taxes and/or force them to cur the services they provide – such as grass-cutting, toilets, free car parking and bus shelters,” he said.

“It is also unacceptable this decision was made by seven cabinet members and not the by the full council of Arun.”

Arun chief executive Nigel Lynn said the cuts were regrettable but unavoidable.