Tax rise or cuts loom to plug £3m Havant Borough Council black hole

SAVINGS NEEDED Havant Borough Council's base at the Plaza
SAVINGS NEEDED Havant Borough Council's base at the Plaza

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SAVINGS of £3m must be made in order to shore up a deficit in council coffers over the next five years.

It means there will be cuts to some services offered by Havant Borough Council.

But Conservative council leader Tony Briggs said he would rather do that than raise council tax – which has been frozen for the past four years.

He says the black hole came about because the government reneged on promises to give local authorities all the income from non-domestic rates and the full new homes bonus.

Instead it must be split between councils and the Local Enterprise Partnership – a partnership between councils and businesses to promote job creation – meaning a £3m drop in revenue.

Cllr Briggs hit out at the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles, who is responsible for the changes.

He said: ‘Every time the government comes out with new rules and regulations we challenge it.

‘Mr Pickles does not acknowledge the great deal of work and quality services that the local government provides.

‘If the government was even half as efficient as local government the country would save a lot of money.’

He added: ‘As far as I’m concerned we have been able to manage the reduction in government grant over the last four years without increasing council tax.

‘The longer we can go without increasing council tax, the longer we’re supporting our residents.’

Cllr Briggs admitted cuts could come from statutory services but only where they offer an enhanced service, over and above what is legally required.

He said non-statutory services, such as support to community associations and sports clubs, may also be affected.

But Councillor Terry Hart, leader of the Labour Party, said now is the time to follow the lead of neighbouring East Hampshire District Council this year and increase council tax. He said: ‘It’s those sorts of decisions you have to make that’s not going to please the electorate.

‘Not doing it last year meant there is a loss and it’s going on year after year.’

He said he would urge the council to write an increase into next year’s budget – which will be debated in November.