COUNCIL chiefs say they “must plan for the worst” after revealing the latest tax hike.

Residents across West Sussex will be asked to cough-up £65 more than they did last year for an average Band D property.

It follows the £24 increase announced for the same tax band by Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne earlier this month.

Tory council leader Louise Goldsmith said the rise was not a decision taken lightly when councillors met to discuss the budget plans for the next financial year.

She said: “I’m only too aware that we’re asking more financially of our residents.

“For some it will be tough and for others it will be even tougher, so this is not an increase that’s been taken lightly but one with a very heavy however responsible heart.

“We want to squeeze every bit of value from the pounds we ask of our residents to pay in council tax.

“We also know that, without increasing the council tax, we will not meet our statutory duties in adults and children’s social care.”

The increase decided by West Sussex County Council is nearly a five per cent rise, and alongside the police precept will add an average of £95 on bills for average properties in towns including Worthing, Burgess Hill, and Haywards Heath.

It means the county council portion for a Band D property will be £1,383.57 next year, and there could also be increases from district and borough councils and the fire brigade.

Ms Goldsmith, who has led the authority since 2010, said she will lobby the government in the hope of bringing “some relief in this parched financial landscape”.

She added: “We hope for the best, but we must plan for the worst.”

The tax rise includes an extra two per cent to pay for adult social care services, while the other three per cent will go to the general coffers of the authority.

Cllr Jeremy Hunt (Conservative) said the future of the authority was not in doubt and said the budget has grown to £575.5 million.

Funds will rise by £19.1 million as the authority will keep 75 per cent of business rates collected.

There will be £20 million of funding over the next three years to complete the Woodlands Meed special school in Burgess Hill, where parents, staff and pupils have been crying out for a new college building.

Burgess Hill representative Cllr Kirsty Lord (Liberal Democrat) said the future now looked bright for the school.