DIFFICULTIES faced by New Milton residents during the pandemic prompted town councillors to freeze their share of the council tax.
The levy on an average band D household will remain at £107.48, as the total budget for 2021/22 will stay the same at £1.13m.
The current combined council tax bill for 2020/21 for an average New Forest band D household is just over £1,836, made up of demands from parish, district and county councils, plus the police and fire services.
Presenting the town council figures for approval during an online full meeting, mayor Cllr Alvin Reid said: “We do recognise as a council the difficult situation people are in.”
The proposal was widely welcomed by members, although amenities committee chair Cllr Geoffrey Blunden warned “not keeping pace with inflation on the budget is not sustainable”.
Cllr John Ward said he could not support the precept freeze as it followed significant rises over recent years which he had also opposed.
Responding, Cllr Reid argued the previous increases had been necessary due to insufficient funds set aside for facilities maintenance in the past.
Major spending planned for 2021/22 includes £25,000 to implement the Neighbourhood Plan of hyperlocal planning policies, plus £20,000 consultants’ fees; and £45,000 for youth management services, including additional part-time youth workers.
The buildings budget remains at £120,000, with new floodlights set to be installed at Fawcett’s Field, where the car park will also be resurfaced.
Supporting the 2021/22 finances, Cllr Steve Clarke believed the council continued to offer “good value for money”.
The proposal was pushed through by a majority vote. Only Cllr Ward voted against.
Cllr Reid told the A&T afterwards: “When developing the precept for 2021/22, we were mindful of the need to continue to serve our residents, the fact that many may have been furloughed or made redundant, inflation, the auditor’s recommendation to increase our reserves, our commitment to improving youth services, town centre development in support of our businesses – a need to continue to promote New Milton as a shopping destination.
“Through hard work and analysis of every line item in the budget, I was pleased to present a precept to the town council that provided the above without increasing the burden on our residents.”