Council tax information
Council Leader Peter Chowney on the 2018-19 Corporate Plan
This year, we've seen continued cuts in the government grant funding we receive. Revenue support Grant, the main government grant, has been cut by 24%, to £1.5m. In 2010, this grant was £9m. On top of that, another of our big grants, New Homes Bonus, was cut by 36%. These grants have not been replaced by any other sources of government funding.
To cover this gap, the council has had to do two things: firstly, it has to run its own services more efficiently; and secondly, it has to generate more income.
Making the council more efficient has involved a range of actions, from reviewing the detail of the way staff work, to IT systems that replace manual administrative tasks, as well as improving online reporting and service applications through the 'My Hastings' website. By the end of this year, we're hoping that all transactional council services will be available to apply for and pay for online. We've also been able to cut down on the amount of paper we use - we'll be saving an additional £55,000 in paper and printing costs over the coming year.
Income generation remains a high priority. There are three main strands to this: commercial property purchases, the council housing company, and energy generation.
Commercial Property Purchase is the easiest way to generate significant income quickly. The council has recently bought, for example, the Sedlescombe Road Retail Park (Dunelm and Pets at Home) and the Bexhill Road Retail Park (TK Maxx). This and other purchases have generated a net income of over £600,000in a full year. More purchases are in the pipeline.
The new council-owned housing company has begun buying properties in Hastings, to make them available for rent. As well as boosting the supply of good quality, well-managed rented housing, this will bring in net income too - we're aiming to generate at least £60,000 in this way over the coming year, but it could be more if the right properties can be identified quickly enough.
Energy generation is a potential big earner, but longer term. Hastings Council is intending to establish a local supply network for electricity generated from local sustainable sources, which would both earn the council income and make cheap electricity available for local people and businesses. To begin this process, the council will this year be installing solar panels on properties it owns, bringing in around £280,000 in income.
However, these initiatives will not be enough to cover the massive cuts in government grant, and further service reductions will be needed, in the medium term. We'll need to continue our transition to be a different kind of council, doing what we do more efficiently, and doing different things in different ways, funding more of our activities from generated income and competitive grants.
During 2017-18 however, efficiency savings and rent from new commercial properties generated more income than expected, so we have not needed to make any frontline service cuts. There will be no staff redundancies, and car park charges will be frozen. We will however need to increase the Council Tax by the maximum allowed without a local referendum (2.99%). This will mean the Hastings Council portion of the council tax will increase for a band D property by £7.48 a year, to £257.81. East Sussex County Council, Sussex Police, and East Sussex Fire and Rescue service will also be increasing their element of the council tax, but Hastings Council has no influence over this.
There will be some growth in the budget, although this will be limited. We will need to set money aside for the cost of producing a Local Area Action Plan for the town centre, which will allow us to press ahead with the redevelopment of White Rock Gardens and the potential for a new performance venue to replace the White Rock Theatre, and a new Leisure Centre. But we have also had to earmark an additional £163,000 to cope with spiralling homelessness, which means over half a million pounds extra funding will have been spent over two years to cope with what has become a national crisis.
On top of our annual budget however, there will be other projects the council is able to pursue, thanks to our successful bids to EU and other external funds. The Fisheries Local Action Group has secured another million pounds for projects to support the local fishery. There will be further improvements and enhancements to the seafront, thanks to money secured from the Coastal Communities Fund. The local Clinical Commissioning Group is funding a £3m joint initiatives with the council to develop preventative healthcare initiatives. And the Community Led Local Development project will be spending around £7m on special projects to tackle unemployment, training, and social exclusion in our most deprived communities.
So despite the cuts, the council remains ambitious. Over the past year, new projects have ranged from improvements to the seafront and the installation of the UK's longest continuous lighting installation in Bottle Alley, to our selective licensing scheme for private rented housing, issuing 5,000 licences, leading to improved conditions and security for many private tenants.
We intend to continue our interventionist approach to improving our town by, for example, continuing to tackle derelict and scruffy buildings, through the Grotbuster scheme and our compulsory purchase programme of empty homes. And we will continue our successful programme of cultural regeneration. Hastings is a borough that has transformed its reputation in recent years, from a shabby seaside backwater to the creative capital of the south-east coast. We'll do all we can to build on this, and work in partnership with others to make sure Hastings continues to flourish.
You can find more details on what we're doing in our Corporate Plan and Budget.
Councillor Peter Chowney
Leader, Hastings Borough Council
How we'll pay for our plans
2017/18 budgeted net expenditure: £'000 2018/19 gross expenditure: £'000 2018/19 gross income: £'000 2018/19 net expenditure: £'000 Corporate Resources 2,693 60,660 (59,303) 1,357 Operational Services 11,802 26,346 (15,370) 10,976 Sub Total 14,495 87,006 (74,673) 12,333 Contingencies (net) 400 500 Other income and expenditure 1,064 2,306 Net contribution to/from reserves (1,705) (694) Net council expenditure 14,254 14,445 Use of Reserves to Fund Deficit (555) (927) Less government grant, deficit (surplus) on collection fund and retained business rates (7,417) (6,923) Amount to be met by council tax payers 6,282 6,595
Your Council Tax Bill explained
Your Council Tax goes towards East Sussex County Council, East Sussex Fire and Rescue, Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner and Hastings Borough Council. For more information, see the documents below:
- East Sussex County Council - Council Tax leaflet (.pdf)
- East Sussex County Council - Council Tax FAQs (.pdf)
- East Sussex Fire and Rescue - Council Tax leaflet (.pdf)
- Sussex Police - Council Tax leaflet (.pdf)
Please pay on time!
What happens if you don't pay your bill:
We are only required to send you one reminder notice in a financial year. If you pay late again you may be sent a final notice and lose your right to pay by instalments.
If you receive a final notice you must pay the full amount. If you are unable to pay in full you must contact us straight away so we can help you.
If you don't pay or contact us, we will issue a court summons.
If you get a court summons for non payment, £95 of court costs will be added to your bill. You can pay in full to stop a Liability Order being granted.
You do not have to go to the Court unless you think the bill is not yours to pay.
After the court hearing, you will be sent a liability order notice together with a financial statement pro-forma which you must complete and return by law. We will then contact you to discuss a suitable payment arrangement. We may decide to take money from your earnings or benefits depending on your circumstances. When the Financial Statement is returned, each case will be looked into and the customer's individual circumstances will be evaluated.
Generally, customers will be offered an arrangement and a letter will be sent to confirm this. Where an arrangement is deemed not appropriate an Attachment to Earnings will be set up if the customer is not on Income Support, Job Seeker's Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance.
After 21 days, if you haven't returned your financial statement and agreed how you are going to pay your arrears, we will pass your debt to our Enforcement Agents (previously known as bailiffs).
Fees, which could be in excess of £300, will be added to your outstanding Council Tax debt.
Council tax information
Got a question about council tax?01424 451081
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