Council tax: Portsmouth City Council says it won't need to make any cuts this year as it reveals how much it will raise tax by

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THE financial future of Portsmouth City Council ‘is looking brighter’, its leader has said, after budget forecasts show that for the first time in more than a decade, it will no longer need to make any cuts from next year.

Since 2011, the council has had to find more than £100m in savings in response to reducing government funding but this year is set to be the last they are needed with cuts of just under £2m planned.

‘I’ve been involved in budget-setting in Portsmouth for 18 years and this is the first time I've seen a forecast saying we won't need to make savings next year,' council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said. 'It's great news for the city and down to sound financial management.’

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Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson
Picture: Chris Moorhouse   (jpns 291121-15)Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson
Picture: Chris Moorhouse   (jpns 291121-15)
Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 291121-15)

However, council tax bills will continue to rise with increases of almost three per cent expected for at least the next three years - one per cent of each hike will be ring-fenced for social care.

'Rises in council tax income are fundamental to the council's future financial position and therefore the future sustainability of council services,' draft budget documents say.

Including police and fire service precepts, the annual bill for a typical Band D home in Portsmouth would be £1,882.35 from April - a rise of about £60.

Councillors will meet to confirm the budget later this month.

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The draft proposals include £600,000 to complete the roll-out of food waste collections across the city and almost £7m for new low-emission bin lorries and depot expansions as part of a £68m investment allocation.

This also includes £5m for work on the new Bransbury Park leisure centre in response to the rising cost of building supplies and a reduction in the grant awarded by Sport England.

Funding increases are also set to be given to its social care departments with an extra £3.9m allocated for its work with children, including care placements, and £3.3m to cover the increase in the National Living Wage for adult social care workers.

‘We’re still dedicated to committing the city's money to the right places,’ Cllr Vernon-Jackson added. ‘[The] new leisure centre will mean we avoid millions of pounds in maintenance costs at our older existing centres.

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‘Plans for a food waste recycling plant in Portsmouth will bring down our costs and can make money supporting other council’s recycling efforts.’

But councillor Simon Bosher, the leader of the Conservative opposition group, said the proposals in the budget were ‘fairly unimaginative’. He said there were several ‘potential problems’ being looked at before it is agreed at the full council meeting on February 15.