HAMPSHIRE residents are set to see their council tax bills rise by almost six per cent as the local authority looks to plug a £140m funding shortfall.
The average bill for a band D property currently stands at £1,037, but from April could increase to £1,200.96 if the proposals are approved.
The increase of 5.99 per cent is made up of a council tax rise capped at 1.99 per cent, an additional flexible rise of one per cent and three per cent increase to the adult social care precept.
The county council cabinet has agreed the proposals, which will be presented to full council for approval on Thursday, February 22.
At the cabinet meeting on Monday, the leader of the council, Roy Perry said: “We are proposing an increase in council tax with some reluctance.
“I’m very conscious all people, and families in particular, feel pressure on their finances and I do not want to add to these pressures.
“We froze council tax from 2010 to 2015 with Band D council tax at £1,037.
“If we accept the recommendation we are putting to the county council, that council tax should be £1,200.96.
“If it had gone up in line with the Consumer Price Index it would be £1,295 so we are still round about £100 less.
“So in real terms it is still lower than 2010.”
Mr Perry added: “Our priorities are very clear and have been consistent all along; sound and prudent finance, careful forward planning and a rolling programme of capital investment.
“What we deliver for the people of Hampshire are services that are better than most other authorities in the country and acouncil tax which is lower than most other authorities in the country and that is a fair record of which we are very proud.”
Between 2015 and 2019, council tax is expected have risen by a total of 22 per cent – the maximum the Government allows.
Councillor Keith House (Lib Dem) said: “This is a pretty disappointing and discouraging meeting to be at as we are still managing decline.
“This revenue budget is about managing decline and nothing more than that.
“The only exception is that this is a budget Jeremy Corbyn would be proud of.
“Even he wouldn’t have dared to increase council tax by 20 per cent over four years.
“Jeremy Corbyn will likely welcome this stuff.”
Councillor Mel Kendal (Con) responded to the criticism and said: “We have not been managing decline but responding to pressure.
“Sometimes the pressure comes in the form of children’s services, sometimes adult services or because of libraries or the need for capital investment expansion.
“We’ve got an admirable record, I believe, of responding to those pressures and I don’t think that to pretend we are declining in regard to services does much for anybody.
“There is a cost of services. We meet those costs of services.
“We respond to areas of pressure.”
Councillor Stephen Reid (Cons) referred to consultation periods and said: “A few years back the major message from the consultees was ‘we are going through difficult times so keep the council tax down’.
“We followed that advice.
“It’s changed now and I think the major message that we are getting now is ‘we are conscious of the pressures on public services so do your best to keep the service levels up.
“And that is what we are doing in this budget.
“We are doing, I believe, what the public has asked us to do.”
Director of corporate resources, Carolyn Williamson, said: “Strong challenges are being faced by all departments which is a continuing theme and all departments have to maintain the services with the allocated sources they have.”
The final decision will be made at the full council meeting later this month.