Hampshire residents feel brunt of council cuts as taxes rise

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THOUSANDS of residents will have to pay more for council tax as Hampshire County Council backed a move to increase precepts by its largest amount since 2010.

Residents across the county – with the exception of those in Portsmouth – are to be hit with a hike of 5.99 per cent from April this year.

That means that an average homeowner of a Band D property will now pay £1,200.96 in tax, a surge of almost £170 since a tax freeze was lifted in 2015.

The news comes ahead of a key meeting of Portsmouth City Council next week, which could see councillors rubber-stamp plans to increase tax in the city by 4.49 per cent.

If agreed, people living in a Band D city home would now need to stump up £1,336.61 a year to pay the toll.

The county council needs to make a crippling £140m in cuts to try and balance the budgets for 2019, with £480m in savings needed to be found over 11 years.

At a cabinet meeting earlier this week, Councillor Roy Perry, chairman of the county council, said he was ‘reluctant’ to increase precepts.

But he said on-going reductions in central government support meant council purse strings had been tightened, with less money being available to pay for key services.

Cllr Perry said: ‘I am proposing this with some reluctance because I am very sensitive and conscious of the pressures that people face and we don’t want local government to add unnecessarily to that.

‘But equally we do know that the people of Hampshire want to see good services.’

The Tory chief said he was ‘confident’ the council’s tax rate would remain ‘among the lowest in the country’.

He added the tax rate had been frozen between 2010 and 2015. If it had gone up in line with the consumer price index, residents would be faced with a bill closer to £1,295 a year.

‘We are currently the second-lowest council tax in the country,’ he said. ‘We may well retain that position.’

In Portsmouth, the tax rise is part of a plan to help the council off-set £4m in savings – much of which the authority says has been covered by its previous budget-handling initiates.

If the proposal is backed by councillors, the additional cash would help pay for vital adult health and social care services, with almost half of the planned rise (1.5 per cent) being devoted specifically to funding the city’s services.

The full council meeting is on Tuesday.