The only council in the country to cut council tax is proving that its financial strategy is working well as it balances the books for the year - and is investing £29.5million in new leisure centres.
East Hampshire District Council is on a mission to achieve financial independence from central government and aims to minimise what it charges its residents for council tax.
The council, which is taking a pioneering approach to dwindling grants, has invested £1.7m to earn income from commercial property already this year and continues to look for suitable investment opportunities.
In addition the council has successfully launched a range of profitable businesses selling services to other local authorities. In 2017-18 these new income streams will enable the council to come very close to achieving full independence without cuts to front line service.
This means that the council is on track for independence from central government grants when these are expected to stop in 2019-20.
As interest rates remain low, the strategists at the district council have looked into other methods to keep services running smoothly and are even investing £29.5m into building two new state-of-the-art leisure centres and an extensive redevelopment of an existing facility.
And the council isn’t shying away from its community commitments – it has set aside more than £100k to continue its popular grant scheme which local organisations can apply for.
Cllr Ferris Cowper, Deputy Leader of East Hampshire District Council, who has pioneered the council’s financial strategy, said: “Our financial planning and detailed strategy has enabled us to cut council tax, invest £29.5m over three years in new leisure centres and still balance the books.
“We have looked at how councils are traditionally funded and taken a completely different approach to suit today’s challenges.
“I am extremely proud that we are the only council in the country to cut council tax and I am enormously grateful for all the hard work and dedication my colleagues have shown to enable us to do this.
“I can’t wait to find more innovative ways to ensure that we can achieve financial independence from central government and I hope that councils across the country follow our lead.”