District to be ‘tax free by 2022’ vows leader

Ferris Cowper, leader of East Hampshire District Council
Ferris Cowper, leader of East Hampshire District Council
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EAST Hampshire will become a ‘council tax free’ zone by 2022 because of the cash it’s making buying property, says the leader of the district authority.

Councillor Ferris Cowper believes the authority will have the luxury of not having to charge residents because of its shrewd property investment strategy.

And he says the council – which covers areas including Horndean, Clanfield, and Rowlands Castle – is keeping the cash coming in selling services to other authorities.

Cllr Cowper said: ‘We have just done our five-year forecasts. One of the things we have to be sure of is when all the government money runs out in 2019/2020, when it all goes to zero, then, that’s when we build on that momentum.

‘We’re building up these new services and investment strategies – we’re thinking, when does this end?

‘And we have discovered, two years after that, we don’t need to levy any council tax, at all.’

But sceptics point out neighbouring parishes could need to increase their contribution towards the total tax bill for the district if they end up taking services off East Hampshire to ease pressure.

And the council is not responsible for social care, a reason others with that responsibility are being forced to hike up taxes so they can cover rising costs.

It comes after East Hampshire decided to slash council tax by 2.6 per cent this year, the only authority in the country to be cutting instead of reducing the rate or setting a freeze.

Cllr Sean Woodward, Fareham Borough Council leader, said: ‘The big caution is, East Hampshire has parish councils, and they have a cunning way of unloading all of their services on to the parishes.

‘The parish precept 
is untapped, it’s out of control.

‘In Whiteley and Winchester, their council tax has gone up by a factor of about 100 per cent since they were founded.’

It comes after Portsmouth City Council voted through a 4.99 per cent rise in tax bills, with three per cent going on covering social care bills.

Portsmouth Tory deputy council leader Cllr Luke Stubbs said: ‘East Hampshire is an example of what can be achieved and how important investment can be to local government.’