Fareham to put on the squeeze to avoid big tax rise

Fareham Community Hospital in Salisbury Green

Picture: Paul Jacobs

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FAREHAM Borough Council is warning that if it doesn’t tighten its belt next year, its share of council tax could rise by more than 10 per cent.

In initial spending plans for the next financial year, the report warns that ‘spending and funding pressures equate to an 11 per cent increase in the amount due from council tax payers’.

However, the council is already looking at ways to make sure the amount does not rise so that it can claim government grants on offer to local authorities that manage to freeze their council tax.

Fareham has frozen its share of the council tax since 2009.

Tory council leader Cllr Sean Woodward, said: ‘It is always the finest balancing act, but it is my intention to freeze council tax.

‘Our residents say they want to see a freeze in the tax combined with a moderate increase in charges, and that is what we are trying to do.

‘We are always looking at how we can do more for less, but it is getting harder and harder each year.

‘For us it is about being more efficient without any perceived reduction in those front-line services.

‘It is not much further before we will have to look at what is discretionary and what is mandatory in terms of our services, and that paints a very stark picture.’

The council is expecting to increase many of its charges and fees by five per cent.

And new projects and schemes not already including in the budget will only be taken on where they are considered essential.

Cllr Jim Forrest, leader of the Lib Dem group, said: ‘We still have to work out our own budget proposals, but one of the things we are looking at is to see if we can challenge central government to practise what it preaches and ease the squeeze on local councils.

‘Up until now, Fareham has, in its intentions, been pretty good.

‘The aim has always been to protect front-line services but I would argue that we are beginning to see some reductions in the quality of service in some areas.’

Fareham residents living in an average, band D, property currently pay £140.22 to the borough council. Including the amounts set by Hampshire County Council, the fire service and the police, the full band D council tax for the current year is £1,385.73 – unchanged from 2011/12.

Next year’s council tax will be debated at February’s full council meeting.