Council tax hike on the cards for East Hampshire

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A TOWN hall is to defy the government by putting up council tax.

Leaders at East Hampshire District Council are proposing to increase the authority’s share of the tax by 2.5 per cent from April.

Neighbouring authorities in Havant and Chichester are poised to freeze council tax, accepting a ‘bonus’ from the government instead.

It comes as Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said councils have a ‘moral duty’ to sign up to the government’s council tax freeze incentive.

But Cllr Julie Butler, who oversees finances at East Hampshire, said a council tax rise is necessary to prevent cuts to frontline services. Some residents were unhappy about having to pay more.

Dave Woods, 46, of Drift Road, Clanfield, said: ‘While I can appreciate they have a deficit, that’s down to their expenditure, not ours.

‘This is a time when households are already under a lot of pressure financially.

‘They are not doing anything to help that.’

Dave Gorshkov, 55, of New Road, Lovedean, said: ‘They are increasing council tax when other councils are not. You have to ask the question why?’

For the average Band D property, the authority’s element of the council tax charge is set to increase from £131.33 to £134.61.

Leaders say they are proposing an increase as the government pay-out – of £160,000 for East Hampshire – is only for one year.

With no guarantee of another incentive next year, East Hampshire wanted to avoid a possible five per cent increase in 2013.

The 2.5 per cent rise equates to an additional income of £160,000.

Cllr Butler said: ‘We have only raised council tax once in the last five years.

‘We are quite a way behind a lot of other authorities that have already raised it year on year.

‘We did not want our frontline services to be affected.

‘In last year’s budget, our voluntary sector, things like the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, they all got hit hard. Doing what we are doing means we have not had to touch any of their grants this year.’

The authority will need to make savings of £1.1m over the next three years.

Cllr Butler added: ‘It’s never going to be an easy decision to make particularly when the climate at the moment is tough.’

Havant Borough Council is set to freeze its council tax for the fourth year running.