COUNCIL tax is set to increase for residents in the borough of Havant for the first time in nine years.
Councillors last night approved a 2.99 per cent hike as they passed Havant Borough Council’s (HBC) budget for 2018/19.
The change comes off the back of months of scrutiny from councillors and officers, following November forecasts of an HBC deficit for the upcoming financial year.
While the increase in the authority’s share of the council tax bill is a crucial part of nailing down what bosses now say is a balanced book for 2018, council leader Michael Cheshire said the hike was proposed ‘with deep reluctance’.
He said: ‘We didn’t want to go down this route but we had no option on this particular occasion.
‘We’ve got to do something to provide our residents with the best services we can with the minimal budget we’ve got.’
As they met for full council, representatives painted a damning picture of the state of local government finance, paying reference to HBC’s cuts of nearly 200 staff in eight years.
Residents at the Public Service Plaza also heard how the council is being hit by central government’s shrinking revenue support grant – which was £1.4m in 2016/17, but is now £290,000 – and will be scrapped from 2019/20.
After Cllr Cheshire delivered his annual budget speech, opposition Ukip leader Cllr John Perry described the forecast as ‘the most depressing budget I have witnessed in this council’.
He said: ‘The proposed rise in council tax is directly attributable to a flawed and ill-conceived, secretive privatisation policy of the cabinet that has now been aborted.
‘This budget betrays the hard-working people of Havant who are proposed to now pay more for the Conservative’s failed policies.’
His comments come after HBC withdrew from a private services contract with firm Vinci in December, following a dip in anticipated savings – which were projected to be nearly £11.5m in 2016.
Seconded by Cllr Malc Carpenter, Cllr Perry – who quit as Ukip opposition leader during the meeting – urged his peers to scrap the proposed council tax increase for 2018/19, but the amendment was voted down by a majority.