THE lowest council tax in the south of England has been maintained for Fareham residents.
Councillors at Fareham Borough Council voted to freeze its portion of the bill at a meeting last night.
It means a Band D property will continue to pay £140.22 a year for council services such as bin collections, road sweeping and planning services.
The council tax has stayed the same for Fareham residents for five years.
Last night’s decision means Fareham has the sixth lowest bill for a district council in England, out of 201 authorities in total. The total bill will be £1,393.74 for a Band D property, which includes a bill of £1,037.88 for Hampshire County Council, £61.38 for fire services and £154.26 for the police.
Across all services, only the police portion has increased – with a rise of almost two per cent. The council budget agreed for the next year was just over £9.5m.
Conservative leader Sean Woodward said: ‘It has always been a priority of this administration to minimise the tax burden on Fareham residents where possible, and for 10 successive years, we have been able to offer council tax increases at a rate below inflation.’
The Lib Dem opposition agreed the council should freeze the tax for a further year, but warned serious consideration had to be given to marginal increases to protect frontline services.
Opposition leader Paul Whittle said budget reductions had seen an impact on dog wardens, youth services and park management.
He said: ‘There’s a serious risk we end up with a big hike.’
He added: ‘The time may have come where we need to ask residents themselves through something like a referendum if they support an increase in council tax for improvement in their local services.’
However, Cllr Woodward said freezing council tax had not been ‘to the detriment of service quality’ and said customer satisfaction remained ‘as high as ever’.
He said there would be a ‘legitimate debate’ to be had when there was no government grant for freezing council tax.
The authority will need to find savings of £800,000 over the next two years.
‘STAFF WAGES SHOULD GO UP’
THE OPPOSITION wanted the council to amend the budget in order to increase wages for 47 council employees.
Fareham’s Lib Dem leader Paul Whittle said those staff members were currently being paid below the ‘Living Wage’ of £7.65 per hour – which is 21 per cent more than the minimum wage
The figure was calculated by the Centre for Research in Social Policy on what it believes is required for a minimum acceptable standard of living.
Lib Dem deputy leader Roger Price said: ‘I think it’s only right that staff should be paid at a decent level.’
Cllr Sean Woodward said wages for council staff would have to be re-evaluated across the organisation and would cost more than the £14,400 proposed by the Lib Dems.
He added: ‘Without doubt it would cost hundreds of thousands.’
The amendment was defeated. The Lib Dems also asked that the council specify in its capital budget that £213,000 be set aside for flood defences. But Cllr Woodward said there was already £400,000 available.