Residents in Basingstoke and Deane could see their council tax bills hiked by £5 a year until at least 2026 under proposals which received senior councillors' backing last night.

The borough council are proposing to increase their portion of the council tax. But the budget also proposes a £1 million per year investment in new staffing for frontline services including grass cutting and customer services.

It has provoked concerns of a cost of living crisis from the borough's Labour party, as National Insurance contributions rise alongside food, energy and fuel prices.

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council only take 10 per cent of the council tax residents pay, so if Hampshire County Council decide to increase taxes, residents could be hit with a further hike.

Other cuts to services will see funding for the Basingstoke Kite Festival, Transport Festival and Euskirchen Festival of Sport withdrawn, whilst grants to community and voluntary organisations will be reduced by £130,000.

But senior councillors have said that these festival are already self-sustaining, so it makes sense to withdraw funding.

Cllr John Izett, cabinet member for finance, said that the council finds itself in a much better position than 12 months ago, when it had to make a raft of cuts to services in the midst of the Covid pandemic.

He told The Gazette: "We have to put forward proposals that show we can pay our way. It is a continuation of the approach the Conservative administration has taken for a number of years in that it is a very careful thorough approach to our finances.

"We in a pretty strong position and we are not having to make drastic savings that others have made.

"We have been impacted significantly by Covid. A year ago we were looking at a very bleak picture and we were having to make emergency savings.

"But the picture appears to be better now, but we are not through Covid yet and we don’t know what is going to happen down the road in terms of the economy. We are making sure that in the same way we were resilient in Covid, we will have the defences in place for the untoward and unforeseen around the corner."

The 29 full time staff to be hired will be deployed in frontline services that residents have identified as priorities, Cllr Izett said.

This includes seven members of staff in the grounds maintenance team and three in the natural environment team, to help the council work on the climate and ecological emergencies.

But whilst this was welcomed by Cllr Andy McCormick, leader of the Labour group, he raised concerns over how people will cope with yet more rising bills.

"People are getting hit from all sides," he told The Gazette. "We have got increases in National Insurance contributions, we have got increases in fuel prices. That is hitting people hard.

"It is going to be a really bad time for people and then we have got the Universal Credit cut as well which has taken £20 a week off people who need it. Only a third are going to benefit from the government's mitigation measures. It is a grim time."

However, when challenged on this, Cllr Ken Rhatigan, council leader, said that people should make adjustments.

He said: "The increase is approximately 10 pence a week. Even if you are on very low income an adjustment can be made to take it into account.

"We have a strong economy in Basingstoke and there are jobs available that would not have been a year ago."

The budget and updated medium term financial strategy will now go out to public consultation, before the final proposals are approved in February.