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COUNCIL TAX: AUDIT COMMISSION REPORT 'VINDICATES' WEST SUSSEX CC

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West Sussex CC leader Henry Smith has welcomed the independent Audit Commission's report, which says that there are...
West Sussex CC leader Henry Smith has welcomed the independent Audit Commission's report, which says that there are 'fundamental flaws' in the way local government is funded and this needs to be addressed urgently.

'We have been saying that the new government formula for redistributing funds from the south east to the midlands and the north has been unfair and responsible for the large council tax rises recently experienced - this view has now been vindicated,' said Henry Smith.

The Audit Commission has said that on average the Midlands and the north received more in grant than the south east. It also said that councils should not have to rely so much on central funding and have more freedom to decide charges locally.

Henry Smith continued: 'West Sussex experienced a very difficult budget this year as the government switched funding away from the county. The county council needed an 18.5 per cent council tax increase to ensure the continuation of essential services to our residents.

'I'm afraid that this report has come too late to influence local government settlements for the coming year. West Sussex has received the third lowest grant increase of any county council in the country.

'The county council has undertaken a wide-ranging consultation on the budget and council tax for next year with every household in the county being given the opportunity to give their views.

'Further efficiency savings in county council services have been identified across the board and we will continue to monitor closely our spending.

'I am determined to keep the council tax increase to single figures, but this will involve some very hard choices.

'The government cannot afford to ignore this report. The whole system of funding local government needs a fundamental overhaul to create a fairer scheme, particularly for those on low and fixed incomes such as our significant senior citizen population,' concluded Henry Smith.

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