COUNCILLORS have clashed over the decision to bump up the prices of car parking, burials and beach huts in a town.
At a meeting last week, Gosport Borough Council voted to increase certain fees across the borough – but faced a fierce outcry from opposition parties.
Parking in long-stay car parks such as Stokes Bay and the Town Centre has risen by 10p per hour, with two-hour car parks receiving the same change.
Annual parking permits have also gone up by £20.
But councillors were at loggerheads over the increased price for the provision of a new grave, which has skyrocketed from £550 to £700. Conservative leader of the council, Councillor Mark Hook, says that the price increases are necessary in order to balance the books.
He said: ‘We know that we have to look at £800,000 savings over the next three years. That’s £275,000 per year for the next three years.
‘The reason we’ve had to look at the cost of burials is that we’ve only got three years of burial ground available at Ann’s Hill Cemetery.
‘We are likely to receive another cemetery to look after, because once the cemetery is full it is the duty of the council to take care of that. There is another one in a few years time we will need to look after.
‘Whilst I recognise that these charges are very high in their increases, there is a reason behind that, and that is we need to find £1m to provide the services we need in the future.
‘I think it’s right that the people who live, play and work in Gosport, also have a right to die and be buried in Gosport.’
Liberal Democrat leader, Cllr Peter Chegwyn, says that the charge increases are ‘grim news’ for Gosport.
He explained: ‘Putting up fees and charges just before Christmas, coming into force in January, and right across the board and way, way above inflation is a stealth tax by no other name.
‘There are so many examples where the Conservatives intend to put up the charge for services way above the rate of inflation.
‘Burial charges up 20 per cent – seeing as you won’t be able to afford to live in Gosport, you won’t be able to afford to die in Gosport either.
‘I do have some sympathy for Cllr Hook, because he’s between a devil and a hard place. It’s his government that has cut so much that he now has to look at putting up fees and charges just to balance the books.’
Gosport Labour group leader, Cllr June Cully, is also backing the party’s Breaking Point campaign, saying that council austerity must come to an end.
She said: ‘Councils simply cannot take any more cuts.
‘If the budget doesn’t reverse the further cuts planned to local government for next year, then more councils will collapse into bankruptcy, with devastating effects for children at risk, disabled adults and vulnerable older people.
‘With the additional impact of universal credit as we go into winter, things look especially bleak’.