At a special meeting of Arun District Council held on 19 February 2020, Councillors voted through the proposed budget for 2020/21, as introduced by Leader of the Council, Cllr Dr James Walsh.
This Budget is part of a medium-term financial plan to provide economic security to the residents of this district and to show that despite facing significant funding challenges this council can deliver effective, accountable and efficient services. This is to be viewed in the context of several years of austerity and declining financial support from central government.
Although there is still great uncertainty about local government funding for the future everything in this budget is provided at a cost of £186 per year for a band D property. This means the council can continue to provide high-level front-line services, which include, among others, maintaining award-winning parks and greenspaces, emptying bins, inspecting restaurants and cafes for food hygiene, keeping toilets clean and in working order. These services will continue to be provided in 2020/21 with an increase in council tax of less than by £4.95 per year (less than10p per week.)
In order to set out the future direction of the council a number of new strategic targets, which were approved at Full Council in November 2019, are being implemented. These targets are in addition to what the council was already working hard to achieve for its residents. One of these targets is the appointment of a Sustainability Officer to respond to the climate crisis we are facing, also the creation of a Commercial Manager to help the Council become more commercially active in the market and to relieve the pressure on council tax payers.
The council’s Housing Revenue Account and, significantly, the ambitious stock development programme is a key focus of this budget. Schemes totalling 89 units have already been approved which will provide quality accommodation for local people in need of homes. Arun District Council is actively developing a pipeline of schemes to ensure a continuous new supply of housing. A comprehensive stock condition survey has been conducted budgetary provision has been made within the Housing Revenue Account Business Plan to support this. This will ensure that tenants enjoy a quality standard of accommodation and that we fully fulfil our responsibilities as a landlord.
As part of the 2020-21 budget, despite the severe financial pressures the council have produced a sound capital programme.
One significant scheme included in the capital programme is our contribution of £200k towards the Littlehampton Public Realm. This has levered in over £3M from external bodies and £200k from our partners at Littlehampton Town Council. This means that we have funds in excess of £3.4M to create a transformational, new and contemporary public realm design. The main objective of this scheme is to improve connectivity between town, riverside and seafront and to create safer and more intuitive pedestrian routes around the town.
A further feature of the capital programme is a clear commitment to invest in the Council’s essential infrastructure. The council is looking to invest substantial sums in essential repairs to Littlehampton Cemetery roof (£250k), Fitzleet car park (£250k) and the West Beach Roadway (£150k), as well as reinstating a refurbishment programme for public conveniences (£150k per annum) and investing in our play areas (£100k).
The 2019/20 capital programme also includes essential investment in Disabled Facility Grants to help keep people living in their own homes. A budget of £1.5m has been set aside for both 2019/20 and 2020/21. In addition, the council is making a significant investment in our IT infrastructure to boost cyber security.
The leader of the council, Cllr Dr James Walsh said: “We have a manageable deficit, which is in line with the medium-term financial strategy, and a comprehensive capital programme which also levers in over £3M from external bodies and partners. In addition to this we have financed a number of strategic targets such as sustainability and commerciality which are vital for the Council’s future development. Further proposals will be laid before Cabinet and Council shortly for the Place St Maur and Sunken Gardens, as well as other schemes in the pipeline for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton. In addition, the funding by developers and the County Council of the Lyminster by-pass and A259 will bring economic benefit to businesses and residents, as well as environmental improvements through lower particulate and gaseous pollution.