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New Forest council tax – area breakdown of what you'll pay for 2021/22

New Forest District Council's Appletree Court HQ in Lyndhurst
New Forest District Council's Appletree Court HQ in Lyndhurst

NEW Forest residents will pay more than £87 extra for the average band D council tax bill from April.

The demand will be £1,923.90 for 2021/22 – an increase of 4.77% – made up of the combined charges of the county, district and town or parish councils, plus the police and fires services.

The final part of the council tax was voted through by New Forest District Council last week, with the Conservative-run authority winning the vote at the budget-setting meeting for a 2.8% band D increase on its share of £183.36.

The administration said the hike will enable big NFDC investment projects – such as £1.2m on new toilets and a potential wine bar at Lymington’s Town Quay, £50m towards 600 new council homes by 2026, and helping plug a £2.5m funding gap over the next three years.

It also had to cope with increasing amounts of flytipping and spending £1.5m to head off potential catastrophic coastline protection problems at Milford to save homes.

NFDC leader Cllr Barry Rickman said the authority did not take the increase “lightly”, adding: “Being a responsible administration does mean taking tough decisions. For 2021/22 this will include a 1.5% rent increase to our housing tenants in line with government guidelines.

“We have a budget which not only protects services but invests in services and my belief is that an average council tax charge of £183.36 per year for everything that this authority delivers to our community continues to represent excellent value for money.”

Cllr Rickman warned of “more pressures than ever” on its finances, adding NFDC “must continue to be proactive” to tackle challenges head on and “deliver efficiencies”.

In response, Cllr David Harrison, leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition group, was critical of the Tories’ record of outsourcing leisure centres management, recycling figures, climate change initiatives and the way they run the council.

He said: “Liberal Democrats believe that democracy works best, and better decisions are made when you don't adopt the attitude that the council policy is really what eight cabinet members decide.”

The majority portion of the council tax comes from Hampshire County Council, also run by the Tories, which last week agreed an increase of 4.99% for a band D household, writes Maria Zaccaro of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

As part of the hike, 3% will towards adult social care services. It means HCC will demand £1,350.45 as its share of the 2021/22 council tax for a Band D property – a rise of £64.

Presenting the budget during a full council meeting, Cllr Stephen Reid, cabinet member for commercial strategy, human resources and performance, said the council has responded positively to the Covid-19 emergency.

He said it was now planning for the recovery and the proposed budget represents “a positive and constructive way forward for Hampshire”.

HCC is planning to invest £13m to improve the resilience of Hampshire roads, and £418m in schools, roads, transport and climate change over the next three years.

Of this, £118m will be used to improve roads and bridges; £68m to expand school buildings; and £33m to reduce carbon emissions.

But Cllr Keith House, leader of the opposition Lib Dems at the county council, responded to the budget, saying: “It has no hope, it has no vision. Even without active support from the government, more could have been done with the big issues we face in our county.”

Cllr Jane Frankum, leader of the Labour group, said she “struggled” with the proposals to increase council tax at a time which is “the most difficult for lots of people”.

There are no new saving proposals as part of the 2021/22 budget which follows plans approved in 2019 to save £80m by 2021, including cuts such as the closure of some council-run libraries.

HCC leader Cllr Keith Mans, from Brockenhurst, said: “This last year has been one of the hardest, if not the hardest financially to manage in this council’s history. However, our strong position at the start helped us weather this particular storm of Covid-19. ”

But he said a long-term strategy to deal with increasing demand in adult social care is needed. He added: “It’s been a difficult budget to put together but I am absolutely convinced it’s the right one.”

Quality of debate 'shocking'

TWO councillors from across the party divide spoke out against the “shocking” quality of debate during New Forest District Council’s budget meeting.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Caroline Rackham complained “the quality of the debate at this meeting has been really shocking” and had involved members of different parties getting at each other.

Her words were echoed by Cllr Michael Thierry, a Conservative, who said: “If I were a member of the public looking in on this I would be so depressed by many things I have heard.”

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