Council Tax rise to boost district’s welfare work

Friday, 7 February, 2020

East Hampshire District Council is considering a two per cent increase in Council Tax to support the most vulnerable people in the district.

The increase, amounting to 5p a week for the average household, would add around £215,000 to the council’s Welfare Fund.

This would be the first time in seven years the council has raised its share of Council Tax and EHDC’s Leader, Cllr Richard Millard, believes residents will be happy to pay a little extra to fund important welfare services.

Cllr Richard Millard, EHDC Leader, said: “I categorically feel this is the right thing to do. We have a responsibility to help the most vulnerable people in society.

“That’s what this job is about – to be there for those residents. I believe it is the right thing to do and I believe that most people will accept a two per cent Council Tax raise to provide support for the people in East Hampshire who need it most.”

EHDC’s Cabinet recommended the rise as part of the council’s budget plans for 2020/2021. The budget will now be put before EHDC’s Full Council on Thursday 27 February.

Alongside the two per cent increase the budget also puts money aside to support other council priorities.

A fund of £50,000 has been earmarked for environmental projects as part of the EHDC’s commitment to fighting the climate emergency. The money will add financial muscle to the council’s two cross-party environmental panels.

Councillors will once again have £4,500 to spend on local initiatives in their own patch. As part of the new budget £1,000 of this allocation must be spent on green initiatives.

Cllr Millard said: “All together this budget gives the council more than £90,000 to spend on reducing our impact on the environment and giving our environmental panels real teeth.”

EHDC is looking to improve key parts of the district through a new strategy, called Enhance East Hampshire, which will see it collaborate with local councils and residents. The 2020/2021 budget includes £250,000 for Enhance East Hampshire to prepare business cases for potential projects.

A further £500,000 has been allocated to the council’s property portfolio to cover maintenance or voids. EHDC has turned to property investment to replace income lost from dwindling Government funding over the last decade. The council’s portfolio currently provides 33 per cent of the council’s total income, and this reserve will help protect it.

For the first time, the budget will be reviewed in six months to give the council a chance to assess its progress, respond to changing circumstances and make a corrective steer if required.

Cllr Charles Louisson, EHDC Portfolio Holder for Finance, said: “We are running your council’s budget like a family budget. If we can’t afford it, we won’t do it.

“It’s about supporting the vulnerable and planning for the future, being sensible but also visionary. We want to strive for results that people can see for themselves, results that will make a difference in the air and on the ground.”

Cllr Millard added: “The Council Tax rise is driven purely by our welfare agenda. We have a responsibility to help people throughout the district. We are always looking to work out where we can make the biggest impact.

“This is a budget we can be proud of. Our reserves are strong and our financial position is secure. I think the public will back what I’m attempting to do.”