District Dispatch - 17 March 2022
Last week, we met as a council to agree the budget for the year ahead. This is quite a complex task, because we look at the income we are generating from services we charge for; funding from government; and your council tax. All of these elements form our budget for the year.
What many people don't realise is that although we collect all of your council tax, we only keep around 9% of it. The rest goes to West Sussex County Council (77%); Sussex Police (11%); and Parish Councils (3%). In fact, the average taxpayer (Band D) will pay us just £3.38 a week for more than 80 services.
The pandemic has continued to have a huge impact upon our finances, but through our efficiency savings programmes and new income generation, we have managed to protect our frontline services and invest in new priority services. We have worked hard to close the budget gap from £2.1m last year, to £808,000 this year, which we are incredibly proud of.
Helping those in need has been a top priority. During the pandemic, we made sure that all rough sleepers were brought into settled into accommodation, and we have been awarded £364,000 so that we can continue with this important work. We have also allocated £3.7 million to support various housing initiatives so that we can provide disabled facilities grants and affordable housing grants. As I've previously mentioned, we are also opening additional short stay accommodation for people facing homelessness this month. Adding to our existing temporary accommodation is going to make a huge difference to those who find themselves at risk of homelessness.
Supporting business has also been a key priority. We've issued more than £12 million in government business rate and discretionary grants, and used government funding for wider business support, including access to a virtual high street platform. We're also investing £6 million into redeveloping our St James Industrial Estate and we have recently approved a further £71,000 of business grants.
We're developing an events programme to support local businesses and get people back into our city and towns. Examples include Cross, Market & More, the Summer Street Party, as well as the cultural extravaganza Culture Spark, which is due to start at the end of this month.
We're setting aside £175,000 to support private, voluntary and community sectors who are making a huge difference in our communities. And we are continuing our successful Choose Work programme to help people to return to employment; as well as introducing a social prescribing service for young people to help them recover from the impacts of the pandemic.
A considerable amount of money is being invested to achieve our climate change targets. £800,000 of capital funding is being used to purchase two new electric refuse freighters, while £1.3m will go towards the decarbonisation of Westgate Leisure Centre. An extra £56,000 has been set aside for additional staff in the Environment Strategy unit. We've also distributed over 8,000 free trees to residents, community groups, schools, landowners and businesses across the district. And, having refreshed our Air Quality Action Plan and finalised our Chichester City Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan, we are well placed to bid for government and other forms of grant funding for projects to reduce air pollution and enhance the existing network of cycle and footpaths in the district.
Significant funding has also been set aside to support the Local Plan Review to make sure that the plan can be finalised for submission this year. As you know this is a top priority for us and is something that we are working extremely hard on. We have also invested £100,000 in our Development Management service to continue to provide good quality and high performing planning services.
This is just a snapshot of some of the major projects we are currently delivering to support you and our communities.
Cllr Eileen Lintill
Leader of Chichester District Council