PEOPLE in Hampshire are set for a council tax rise of almost four per cent after the county council was hit by a worse than expected grant cut.

Leaders at the Conservative-led authority were left reeling after being told they would be £29m worse off in 2016/17 than previously expected, meaning council tax is likely to go up for the first time in six years.

The government cut to their grant means a council tax rise of 1.99 per cent and another two per cent increase as part of the social care precept, announced by Chancellor George Osborne last year to fund the rising cost of social care, are now being proposed.

The council tax increase will raise an extra £20m in revenue but civic chiefs will have to dip into £54.5m from reserves to meet a gap of £80m.
A total of 218 jobs could be axed as part of the final budget proposals being considered by the council’s cabinet on last Friday.

Council leader Roy Perry said: “While a proposed increase of 3.99 per cent would contribute towards making up some of the lost grant and social care costs next year, we would still need to use £55 million of reserves to plug the remaining gap, leaving us with nothing for future years. 

“We had always anticipated using some reserves to balance the budget next year to give us the time to reshape and modernise our business, but we had not expected to need to use so much – especially when proposing to put up council tax.

“We are facing the most challenging period of the prolonged national austerity measures. In Hampshire, this means having to deliver savings of £98 million by April 2017, rising to a further £140 million of savings by 2019/20.”

The council tax rise, if approved, would mean residents in band D properties paying an extra £41.40 in 2016/17.

New UKIP group leader at the county council Chris Wood said: “Clearly the government does not trust councils to deliver services for a reasonable price, otherwise they wouldn’t feel the need to continually slash the budget.

“If the Conservative councillors at the county want to stand up for their residents they should leave their party.”