Councillors vote to freeze Gosport council tax but make cuts

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GOSPORT council’s share of council tax will be frozen –for the fourth year in a row.

But in a budget voted for by borough councillors last night, cuts had to be made to some areas.

These include reducing the cash spent on the town struggling market by £34, 290.

Tory leader of the council, Councillor Mark Hook, said the authority must continue to make cuts to maintain council tax rates but that front-line services were not cut.

He warned savings must be made in the year ahead as government funding is due to reduce by £698,000 between 2013/14 to 2014/15.

Addressing councillors last night he said: ‘We will need to review the level of staffing and we will continue to look for alternative ways of maintaining our delivery of frontline services while offering value for money.’

Total spending has been cut to £10,284,090 in 2013/14 from £10,539,690 last year.

Central government has cut economic prosperity initiatives funding worth £200,590, along with £121,350 for community safety schemes.

After the meeting Cllr Hook said: ‘It’s fair that we’ve got to take our share and so it didn’t come as a big surprise.

‘We recognise next year we have got to save £700,000 but if you start doing that now it softens the blow for years to come.

‘We did this two or three years ago when we reduced the budget by £1.75m on the way we organised staffing but the key is to maintain frontline services.’

But leader of the Labour opposition, Cllr Dennis Wright, challenged Cllr Hook on the budget while acknowledging the authority faces constraints placed on it from central government.

He said: ‘We cannot take efficiency savings without local government ceasing to exist as we know it.

‘To say there are no cuts is not true at all.’

After the meeting he said: ‘We’ve seen the amount of money going to economic development reduced, the amount going to crime prevention reduced and car parking charges increased.’

He added there had been cuts to services in recent years under Cllr Hook’s leadership, including the closure of the council’s nursery.

Cllr Wright put forward an amendment, which was rejected, suggesting £5,000 reductions from leisure and culture, and the chief executive’s unit budgets, and a £2,000 reduction from marketing and tourism.

He said the £12,000 should be given to the Citizens Advice Bureau, which faces a grant freeze.

Lib Dem opposition leader Cllr Peter Chegwyn said he was concerned grants to other voluntary groups would not increase in real terms.

After the meeting he also said changes to the benefits system due to come into force on April 1 will mean some people will pay more.

‘Many people on limited incomes will find their bills go up because of other decisions this council has made,’ he said.

He added that councillors’ expenses should not increase.

He said: ‘It’s a disgrace that councillors’ allowances will go up. It’s in line with inflation but it’s the principle.’

The borough’s share of council tax is added to that of the police, any parish or district councils, and the county council, which levies the lion’s share of the bill.