Fareham council tax is frozen for the fourth year

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PEOPLE living in Fareham have had their district’s share of the council tax set at the same level for the fourth year running.

At last night’s meeting of Fareham Borough Council to set its budget for the coming year, it fix its share of the annual council tax as £140.22 for those living in an average band D home.

This is the same as the figure that was set in February 2009.

Taking the amounts set by Hampshire County Council, the fire service and the police into account, the full band D council tax for the year 2012/13 will be £1,385.73 – which remains unchanged from last year.

The Tory leader of the council, Councillor Sean Woodward, said: ‘It has always been a priority of this administration to minimise the tax burden of Fareham residents where possible, and for nine successive years we have been able to offer council tax increases at a rate below inflation, thereby reducing the cost in real terms over that period.

‘This has not been to the detriment of service quality.Indeed customer satisfaction remains as high as ever and that is something to be proud of.’

As part of its bid to balance the books, the council has cut 42 jobs over the past year, including some senior management posts.

‘One of the council’s main strengths lies with its staff,’ added Cllr Woodward. ‘Last year was a challenging time and I think it is appropriate to commend the attitude and commitment of our officers during these difficult times.’

Building on the success of this year’s apprentices scheme, £150,000 was approved to top up the new skills fund.

And £20,000 is to be set aside for projects in Fareham Park, one of the most deprived neighbourhoods in Hampshire.

There will also be £110,000 for extra employees in the council’s Clean and Tidy Borough department.

Cllr Woodward also warned that there would be more difficult decisions ahead as government subsidies for freezing council tax this year and last year ran out, and that in 2013/14, £650,000 of savings would need to be found.

The opposition Lib Dem group did not propose any amendments to the budget.

Group leader Councillor Jim Forrest said there was ‘much to applaud’ in the budget. But he noted his group’s suggestion of installing solar panels on the council offices was rejected as an amendment in last year’s budget before it was announced as a council scheme weeks later.

He said: ‘We acknowledge [the budget] as a fair response to unprecedented difficulties.

‘But we urge this council not to become addicted to austerity as an end in itself, but to be ready, when the times allow, to invest for growth and to be an innovative and imaginative provider of services.’

The budget was passed unanimously.