Councillors at Eastbourne Borough Council have agreed a rise in council tax of just under 10p a week, despite Covid-19 leaving the council with a “significant shortfall” in funding.
This 2% rise will enable the council to continue delivering essential services to residents and support businesses through the challenges posed by the pandemic.
Councillor Stephen Holt, Cabinet Member for Financial Services, said: “Coronavirus has impacted on all aspects of our way of life, most tragically in some cases with the loss of loved ones.
“We have been doing everything we can to support residents, particularly the most vulnerable, and Eastbourne businesses through these difficult times, so I am pleased we have been able to keep the increase in council tax down to just 10p a week.”
As a seaside town reliant on tourism, Eastbourne has been dealt a crushing financial blow by Covid-19 with the council bearing significant unplanned costs and huge losses in income.
Eastbourne Borough Council derives around 60% of income from tourism, and this figure has suffered a massive decline due to Covid-19 – including £6 million worth of revenue lost from the forced closures of theatres and all conferencing.
Councillor Holt added: “The pandemic has hit the council’s income, created increased demand for our services and led to more hardship across the borough requiring a rapid expansion of support for jobs and the economy.
“We recognised that early intervention was important and have already made savings of £4.8 million this year. We also approached the government in the summer when they asked for councils with exceptional financial circumstances to contact them.
“It is no surprise that we are just one of a number of councils that have requested additional support at this time.”
Following discussions with the government, it has been agreed that the council can capitalise up to £6.8m for the financial year 2020/21 and up to £6m for 2021/22.
Councillor David Tutt, Leader of Eastbourne Borough Council, said: “This agreement with government is recognition that the Covid lockdowns created unavoidable and unprecedented pressure on council finances.
“We have been working closely with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government for some time over our significant shortfall in funding and although our calls for the government to honour its financial promises made at the start of the pandemic to compensate for lost income have not been met, we are encouraged to be moving ahead now with capitalisation plans albeit at additional financial cost for the council to manage.
“Alongside delivering significant savings through out Recovery and Reset programme, we have a achieved a budget that provides financial sustainability and resilience for the future.”
A council tax bill is divided between East Sussex County Council (73%), Eastbourne Borough Council (12%), Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner (10%), and East Sussex Fire Authorities (5%). The 3.49% increase planned by East Sussex County Council would mean its portion of a Band D bill increases by £52.02 a year.
Full Council will consider the budget on 24 February.