Winchester council tax frozen for fifth year

Basingstoke Gazette: Winchester council tax frozen for fifth year Winchester council tax frozen for fifth year

WINCHESTER civic chiefs tonight agreed to freeze council tax for a fifth year in a row.

An average Band D property will pay £126.27, the same as in 2010-11, the Council meeting unanimously decided.

With the county council also freezing council tax yesterday, households will have relatively small increases from the police and fire authorities.

Senior Tory councillor Stephen Godfrey said that despite reduced Government funding the council was presenting a balanced budget with no tax increase or cuts to services.

The council has transformed the way it works in recent years, making less money go further and raising income by boosting the local economy, he said.

Some £113m will be invested in capital schemes over the next five years including Silver Hill Renaissance, £6m on enterprise centres and land purchases.

Cllr Godfrey said the council was also working towards making all civic contractors pay the Living Wage. The aim is to make Winchester one of the first Living Wage cities, where “local people can expect to earn enough to afford to live here.”

The Liberal Democrats tabled an amendment to reduce the cost of lease cars and freeze pest control fees as well as making £120,000 available over the next two years to fight fuel poverty, where poorer household are paying a disproportionate amount to heat their homes. The money would come from cutting the amount that would go into business rates reserves.

After a 15-minute break and some negotiation the Tories agreed to the full poverty initiative and the Lib Dems dropped the rest of the amendment.

Lib Dem leader Kelsie Learney said she supported ideas such as the council tax freeze, but added: “We need to focus more to help residents struggling in these tough times.”

Cllr Therese Evans, Lib Dem, said the latest figures from 2011 revealed there are 3,636 households in fuel poverty in the Winchester district.

Labour leader Chris Pines said: “We are beginning to recognise the pressure on those least able to support themselves, the elderly and those on low incomes. Although the average income is £26,000, the median is £11-12,000, which means half of all families are on that figure or below.”

Cllr Simon Cook, Lib Dem, said he recently took a phone call from a woman who asked: “Do I eat or heat my home?”

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