Burial fees and waste collection charges to rise

Taxpayers forking out millions in legal costs

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FEES and charges set by Fareham’s council could rise by around five per cent next year.

Fareham Borough Council has laid out the proposals as part of its plans for setting its share of the council tax for 2012/13.

Charges that will rise include the rental of sports facilities, burial fees, special waste collection and pest control.

But warnings are already being made about future years when central government subsidies for freezing the council tax run out.

Conservative councillor Sean Woodward, who is leader of the council, said: ‘We raise the fees by five per cent every year, as we have done for a long time now. For an awful lot of that period, inflation has risen by about five per cent, and we are firm believers that the user pays.

‘On all those pages of charges, there are lots of things that are rarely used, but we have to have them, or they’re set by statute, such as planning, environmental health and things like that.

‘We are also freezing parking charges.’

As it did this year, the government has agreed to give extra financial support to local authorities which freeze their council taxes next year.

But Cllr Woodward said: ‘It will undoubtedly have an effect when those subsidies expire. The subsidy last year was spread over four years, but this year will only be the one year, so I think you will see a fair few councils breaking off from that scheme this coming year.

‘But we were already looking at keeping the council tax at zero for a third consecutive year before the government announced this year’s subsidy. And we are already preparing for that loss of the subsidy.’

Despite the proposed rises, the council would still be looking at a funding gap of about £80,000 for next year.

‘We have to find that £80,000 before we set the council tax,’ Cllr Woodward added. ‘I have got some ideas on how to do that and I will decide on those in January.’

Councillor Jim Forrest, leader of the opposition Lib Dem group said: ‘What they’re proposing seems reasonable enough. They’ve had a commitment to keep them as far as possible in line with inflation, which given the current economic circumstances, is about right. It’s sensible to freeze the parking charges as well. We want to encourage people to come into the town centre.’

Earlier this year the council cut 42 jobs in a bid to balance the books.

Fareham’s portion of the council tax will go before the ruling executive in January and be set at a special meeting of the full council in February.