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New Milton Town Council digs into reserves to minimise tax rise in light of rising fuel costs and continued pandemic struggles

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RISING fuel costs and financial challenges from the pandemic persuaded New Milton Town Council to use reserves to reduce the increase charged for its services over the next year.

The share of council tax contributed by an average band D household will rise by £4.19 from last year’s £107.48 to £111.67 – equating to £2.14 per week.

This 4.99% increase for 2022/23 comes after the precept was frozen last year in light of the Covid-19 crisis’s impact on finances.

New Milton Town Council approved the precept rise during its meeting at the town hall in Ashley Road
New Milton Town Council approved the precept rise during its meeting at the town hall in Ashley Road

The total budget for 2022/23 will now stand at £1.2m – up from the previous two years’ £1.13m.

Cllr David Hawkins told the full town council, which was tasked with approving the budget and precept last Monday, that a lot of work had been put into ensuring it was as low as possible.

“I’d like to remind everybody that we’re coming up to a very difficult time where fuel costs are spiralling out of control and the cost of food is not getting any cheaper,” he said.

Cllr Keith Craze
Cllr Keith Craze

“People living in our area will be struggling – some more than others – so I think it’s a very good idea that we’ve drawn on our reserves to reduce the amount on our precept.”

Town mayor Cllr Keith Craze described the overall result as “extremely fair”, stressing elements such as staff wages had to be taken into consideration.

“The phrase ‘hamstrung’ comes to mind,” he commented. “We have to do it because we’re doing it for the public, but that comes at a price.”

Cllr John Ward, who has strongly opposed previous precept rises and voted against last year’s freeze as it followed significant increases, this time abstained from the vote that approved the new budget and precept.

The current combined average band D council tax bill in the New Forest for 2020/21 is £1,924, comprising charges from parish, district and county councils, plus the fire and police services.

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