Council tax in Fareham could be frozen again thanks to savings

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COUNCIL tax could be frozen for a seventh year thanks to savings being made by Fareham Borough Council running more efficiently, according to the council leader.

A report is due to be discussed next week at Fareham Borough Council’s scrutiny meeting which shows the heavily-criticised Vanguard method has sped up the way the council deals with residents enquires, leading to better customer service and ultimately saving money.

Council leader Sean Woodward said that spending £300,000 to hire consultants to implement a new way of working called the Vanguard method in September last year has already generated £168,000 of savings.

Cllr Woodward said that figure was just for the first year, and he expects that number to grow each year, which makes him confident that he will be able to freeze council tax for the seventh year running.

He said: ‘With these significant savings it will be possible to freeze council tax yet again, which will then equate to about a 25 per cent reduction in council tax over seven years.

‘It is fantastic and I always bear in mind that there are older people in the borough who every penny makes a difference to.

‘Vanguard has not only improved service, it has led to savings. The primary aim was not to save money but it has been an unintended spin-off.’

The Vanguard method has been applied to five areas of the council - planning, benefits, housing, parking and recruitment - meaning they have been redesigned to become more customer focused.

This has led to staff being more empowered to deal with enquiries, leading to shorter handling times. For example, a planning application has been reduced from 56 days to 36 days and benefits applications have reduced from 20 days to six days.

Leader of the opposition Cllr Paul Whittle raised questions about the motives of the council.

He said: ‘Vanguard was not meant to be about savings. We were told that it would be improving services.

‘This is now completely moving the goal posts. It is still too early to say whether this has actually improved customer satisfaction, which can only be done via a survey of residents.’

Cllr Whittle said he would be raising further concerns about the figures.