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Hampshire County Council proposes 4.99% Council Tax precept increase to help plug £132m budget blackhole

HAMPSHIRE County Council is preparing to hike its council tax share as it tries to plug a £132m budget black hole.

The authority is proposing increasing its precept charge by 4.99% for an average band D household for 2024/25 – the maximum without putting the choice to voters in a referendum.

Executive members of the authority will review – and are likely to approve – the proposed increase at a meeting on 6th February. The full council will then set the overall budget, including any precept increase, at a meeting on 22nd February.

Hampshire County Council offices
Hampshire County Council offices

The council said increasing its council’s tax share by 4.99% would help the authority to provide £2.6 billion of services to the county’s 1.4 million residents. HCC’s precept makes up the lion’s share – about 60% – of the total paid by New Forest taxpayers.

Council leader Rob Humby said: “These remain challenging times for everyone, including across local government nationally, as we have to keep finding ways to stretch the budgets that we have available, to meet inflation pressures and increased costs associated with higher numbers of the most vulnerable children and adults who need our help – which in Hampshire will cost an extra £152m from April.

Cllr Rob Humby of Hampshire County Council
Cllr Rob Humby of Hampshire County Council

“We are already consulting local people on options to meet a £132m budget shortfall expected by April 2025, but for the coming financial year 2024/25, the budget is where we expected it to be.

“From 1st April, a council tax increase of 4.99% is being put forward, of which 2% would go specifically towards adult social care and supporting the county’s higher numbers of older people and adults with complex needs and disabilities.

“This recommended increase would be the maximum allowed by government before we would need to hold a referendum, and could help to generate an extra £39m towards our overall service delivery costs. If approved, this would work out as around an extra £1.40 for households to pay per week.”

He added: “We will be considering this proposed increase very carefully when the cabinet meets on 6th February as we know that household budgets also remain under significant pressure.

“If agreed by cabinet, and the full council on 22nd February, the recommended increase, which is below the current rate of retail price inflation, would still mean that Hampshire has one of the lowest council tax of any county in England.”

Alongside revenue spending plans for the next financial year, the council’s cabinet will also receive capital budget proposals, with building and infrastructure projects totalling £880.6m over the next three years.

The proposed three-year programme includes £173m to “safeguard the long-term viability of the older adult care estate” and a £192m investment in new and extended school buildings.

The programme would also include £163m for road and bridge maintenance, £76m for school enhancements and £73m towards integrated transport schemes, including £43m for walking and cycling schemes such as the proposed network for the New Forest.

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