THE COUNCIL'S plans to cut free parking for disabled people is set to be scrapped.

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council (BDBC) were proposing a raft of cuts to services as it counts the financial cost of the coronavirus pandemic.

Among these were plans to scrap free parking for disabled people in council-run car parks.

But a report set to be debated on Tuesday by the authority's cabinet reveals that civic chiefs are proposing to abandon this plan, whilst the senior councillors are set to rubber-stamp plans to increase the borough's share of council tax by an average of £5 (3.96 per cent).

They have also decided against introducing a subsidy on pest control services, and will not implement a phased reduction in grants to parish councils for grass cutting.

But the cost of residents' parking permits are set be increased by 60 per cent, whilst the town's B-Love festival, likely to be cancelled this year because of the pandemic, could also be outsourced.

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

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.

It comes after The Gazette reported last September that the authority expects the Covid pandemic to cost them £6 million in 2020-21.

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

39 per cent of people who responded to the council's proposals supported them, whilst 32 per cent disagreed.

Additionally, only £40,000 will be saved by a review of the B-Love festival, rather than the proposed £60,000, and a review of council employees in the IT team will only save £20,000 instead of £60,000.

Criticism for cuts

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

The Basingstoke and Deane Independent councillor told The Gazette back in November: "Cllr [Ken] 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 previously 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."

Council tax hike

The proposals, set to be debated by the authority's cabinet of senior Conservative councillors on Tuesday evening, also confirm plans to increase council tax for residents.

The borough council, which in 2020-21 was entitled to roughly seven per cent of residents' total council tax payments, are set to increase their precept by just under four per cent.

It is the equivalent of a 5 per cent increase for band D taxpayers. An increase any higher would require a referendum to be held.

But it has previously been reported that residents also face a £15 rise for the police precept, whilst Hampshire County Council are also proposing a £64 increase.

These plans from BDBC are part of the authority's budget for 2021-22, which will go before full council at the end of February.