Tax freeze is on for a fifth year in Fareham borough

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FAREHAM looks set to fix its share of the council tax for a fifth successive year.

But the ruling Tory group has pledged that it will not mean a cut in front-line services – despite the increasing financial pressures.

The full council will meet on Friday, when it will be asked to vote on the recommendation to keep the tax at £140.22 for the coming year for an average, band D, property.

Council leader, Cllr Sean Woodward said: ‘The government grant is worth one per cent, but inflation is ruinning nearer three per cent, so the cost is well in excess – we are still left with that gap in the budget.

‘It has required us to take £3m out of our costs and a quarter of our employees.

‘But we have been able to plan it over a number of years, rather than make knee-jerk reactions, which is how we have avoided making big lay-offs and cuts.’

In 2001/12, the council axed more than 40 posts, mostly through voluntary redundancies and merging jobs, including some senior management roles.

Cllr Woodward added: ‘To put it in some context, we have the eighth lowest council tax out of 201 local authorities, and at the same time, 90 per cent of councils get more government grant support than Fareham.

‘The financial pressures are huge, but our front-line services have been maintained, and the freeze has been worth about £25 to each household, if you uprated it.’

Cllr Jim Forrest, leader of the Lib Dem group, will be delivering his group’s alternative budget proposals at the meeting and he said: ‘I think we will be supporting the freeze, but we will be looking to see if there are other ways in which the council can fund support for local services.

‘We want to see if the government can be persuaded to match the rhetoric of the big society.’

But Cllr Nick Gregory, of the independent group added: ‘How long can we continue to take meat off the bone without having the funds to offer the services that are required?

‘In one sense, a freeze is good news, but wouldn’t it be prudent to make a small increase?

‘A £5 increase would create about £200,000 in extra revenue, but instead, we are freezing it to get the £60,000 government grant instead.

Hampshire County Council is due to set its share of the tax tomorrow. The recommendation is to keep it at the same level for a fourth year at £1,037.88 for band D.