RESIDENTS are facing another hike in their bills after New Forest District Council’s ruling cabinet backed increasing its share of the council tax by nearly 3%.
If its recommendation is agreed by the full council, those living in a Band D property will pay £173.36 for 2019/20, an increase of 2.97% on last year.
It would also come on top of a host of other increases – such as the extra £24 a year towards Hampshire Police’s costs and other rises in what they pay towards their respective town or parish council.
At the latest Conservative-controlled cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Cllr Jeremy Heron, member for finance, corporate services and improvement, cheerfully explained the latest budget projections “deserved considerable praise”.
He explained the council’s medium-term financial plan through to 2023 was balanced. “It’s quite an exceptional thing,” he said. “Hundreds of councils across the country will be truly envious of that achievement.”
He claimed the council’s “smarter” working practices had created efficiencies that allowed it to invest £750,000 in the Office 365 computer system and the development of council-owned land at Hardley Industrial Estate into a new depot this coming financial year.
A report added the £300,000 windfall it got from health and leisure centre costs had assisted with the budget, as had £49,000 worth of community grants savings and an upcoming review of the business improvement service area that was expected to save £45,000 a year.
The council, the report continued, had contended with above inflation pay increases for staff at the bottom end of the pay scale and 2% per annum rises for other scale points across the current financial year and 2019/20.
It also coped with increasing the resources dealing with private sector housing standards and is spending £40,000 to bring in an ICT expert to advise on it making better use of its computer resources.
For the future, important frontline services should be secured, Cllr Heron pointed out, adding there had been “significant” investment in technology and planning.
Several areas in which future savings will be made, the report added, included the contentious plan to explore privatising the management of health and leisure services and spending £121,000 to move its CCTV control room all under one roof.
It will also have to consider how it enforces its off-street car parks after ending an agreement it had with Hampshire County Council over on-street parking, maximises economic benefits and promotes home composting and provides Free Garden Waste Collections.
The report also revealed the council will explore whether it should make a “modest” expansion of the area in which it searches for commercial investment to cover Poole, Bournemouth and Southampton – an idea which has previously been criticised by the opposition Liberal Democrat group.