A REDUCTION of nearly £800,000 of government funding is being taken from the borough this year, resulting in the council having to increase council tax.

The main grant Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council receives towards running its services has been cut by more than a third for the year, from April 2016.

As a result, the council is proposing to increase its part of council tax by £1.98 per year for the average household.

However, it still intends to invest more in services and improving the area, as well as protect frontline services.

It is planning to invest an extra £1.6 million into priorities including innovative plans to support homeless people and those at risk of losing their homes, as well as securing Basingstoke Festival.

This is on top of year-on-year extra funding of £157,000 for key services including support for youth and community development initiatives and attracting more jobs to the area.

The borough council’s part of the council tax bill has been frozen for the past five years and is the lowest of all district councils in Hampshire and the sixth lowest in the country.

This is due to a package of measures including finding £734,000 of efficiency savings, building on £7 million of savings made over the last five years, and increasing income with only an average inflation-linked rise in fees and charges.

However, as previously reported in The Gazette, the budget for the council’s plan has been criticised by opposition councillors, who claim it has been “badly managed”.

Cabinet member for finance and resources, Cllr John Izett, said: “The cut in our main government grant for next year is based on the government’s assumption that the borough council will put up its part of council tax by an average of £5 a year. But despite rising costs, a growing population and reducing funding, we have still managed to minimise the burden on council tax payers and get it down to under £2 by carefully balancing our books and finding efficiency savings.

"We are committed to remaining a low council tax despite these increasing budget pressures and our pledge remains to keep the excellent services that our residents rely on every day and invest in the future success of the borough.”

Increases in charges have been kept as low as possible, with free parking increased to an hour in the council’s short stay car parks in Basingstoke.

Almost £12 million of ‘larger ticket’ items will be funded by the council’s capital programme in the year from April 2016, including more money for disabled people needing adaptations to their homes and improvements to community and leisure facilities and environmental and heritage schemes.

The council is also planning to use more of the government grant it gets for each new home built in the borough, towards investing in ensuring infrastructure and new facilities are in place when major new developments are built.

Councillors will discuss the proposed budget at the Scrutiny Committee before the council’s Cabinet decides the final budget recommendations, at its meeting on Tuesday, January 26. A council meeting on February 25 will set the budget.