A RAFT of cuts to council services have been unveiled as part of plans to balance the authority's budget.

Free parking for disabled people will be scrapped under the plans, whilst the cost of residents' parking permits will be increased by 60 per cent.

The town's B-Love festival, cancelled this year because of the pandemic, could also be outsourced.

However, the measures have been labelled as "necessary" by one senior councillor.

It comes after the Gazette revealed that council tax is set to rise by £5 from April, if plans are approved.

The cuts will be debated by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council's cabinet on Tuesday evening, where the proposed rise to council tax is also set to be discussed.

It is in response to a report from a meeting in September that revealed that the authority expected the coronavirus pandemic to cost almost £6 million in 2021-22.

This includes over £1 million in unplanned costs, and almost £5 million in reduced income.

Now, BDBC is setting out its draft budget for next year, as well as revising its medium-term financial strategy.

Documents reveal that as well as a hike in council tax, civic chiefs and senior councillors are planning on scrapping free parking for disabled people and increasing parking permits for residents from £25 to £40.

The Centre shuttle, which runs from the Leisure Park to Basing View, via the train station, would be scrapped from March 2021, when the current contract ends.

The report states that both the park and ride and the mass rapid transit system being planned go along that route, and that usage had reduced.

B-Love festival, held in the town every year, could be outsourced. The report says that "soft-market testing to assess alternative delivery methods" would be utilised - which could save £100,000 a year from 2022.

Reception hours at the council's Parklands building could be halved, whilst free council-run car parks in Eastrop, Whitchurch, Overton, Kingsclere and Bramley could have charges introduced.

Charges for new black bins and garden waste containers will be increased, whilst subscription costs for bulky and garden waste services could also go up.

However, the statement does contain a commitment to install CCTV at the council's charity donation points, which have seen an increase in fly-tipping lately.

The cuts have been criticised by Cllr Jack Cousens, who represents Kings Furlong and Brookvale.

The Basingstoke and Deane Independent councillor told The Gazette: "Cllr Rhatigan and his team have decided to hit residents in the pocket at a time when they need the most support.

"Hiking fees and charges sends completely the wrong message. A 60 per cent increase in residents parking permits is a particularly bitter pill to swallow.

“Despite saying they will focus on tackling Climate Change, scrapping the Shuttle Bus and ramping up bulky and garden waste collection fees could end up having the opposite effect.

“Even the cultural benefits are at risk. Outsourcing the much coveted B-LOVE festival could see the event lost altogether, just like the Carnival and Balloons Over Basingstoke.

“Cuts have consequences. If the Cabinet seek to push these proposals through, they may well see their own positions cut as residents have their say at the ballot box.”

However, the administration has defended the moves as "necessary", with Cllr Hannah Golding, the councillor responsible for the authority's finances, saying that they are "difficult decisions".

She said in the report: "There are some challenging proposals put forward this year which have been given careful consideration before putting them forward for consultation. "Every effort has been made to protect and maintain the services that residents tell us they value.

"In order to close the budget gap, which is significantly larger this year than usual due to Covid -19 related pressures, it has been necessary to consider all alternatives and options, but we have had to make difficult decisions and have put forward some challenging proposals.

"Despite this, and most unusually for this council, the report presents a residual budget gap, which is anticipated to reduce following the government’s delayed Spending Review and local government finance settlement.

"I recommend the proposals detailed in the report are put forward for consultation and will ensure that all responses are carefully considered in determining the final proposals for Council in February 2021."

The report will be debated by councillors at Tuesday's cabinet meeting, before being put before full council for approval alongside the rest of the budget in February 2021.