Lowest Council Tax rise in the county

Conservatives at Winchester City Council keep promises made over local tax.

Conservative controlled Winchester City Council last night (Wednesday 28th February) passed the lowest council tax increase in Hampshire.

A 2.9% increase was agreed at the Full Council meeting in Winchester's Guildhall which represents a rise less than inflation and meets a key pledge the party made to local voters when they took control of the City Council in May 2006.

The increase will see a band D tax rise from £113.13 to £116.46, the equivalent of just 6p a week extra.

Cllr George Beckett (pictured above), Conservative leader of the Council said, “It has been a tough budget round this year and we have had to make decisions that impact across the council. We are already making efficiencies, with £1m saved in the current year, and in the year to come we will be aiming to save more by implementing a fundamental service review where we will study closely every aspect of the council’s activities and ensure they give best value.

The proposed cut to the Meals on Wheels scheme has now been reversed following feedback, “We have listened” said Cllr George Beckett.

Steve Brine, Conservative Parliamentary for Winchester, congratulated his City Council colleagues but added; "Our City Council has had to work round the clock to keep bills down and all credit to them.  But it has been done in spite of increasing pressure from a Government in London which has presided over a near doubling of council tax bills since it came to power in 1997.

"To give one example (and there are many others), Gordon Brown promised to grant bus passes to all pensioners which secured him a nice headline but cost council tax payers a cool £250k MORE than the funding he provided to cover his pledge.

"Ministers want local councils such as Winchester to do more and more but are simply not prepared to fund them sufficiently to fill the gaps.  This leaves local politicians always struggling to pay for the promises made by remote figures in Westminster.

"Gordon Brown's ten year stealth tax raid has left many feeling the pinch. Pensioners, hard-working families and young people on the housing ladder for the first time all have to meet the year on year increases - as well as coping with rising water bills, rising inflation, rising interest rates and the rising cost of living.

"As a country we need to decide how we will fund local government in the future.  I am pleased to say the Conservative Shadow Cabinet is looking closely at the best solutions; merely replacing council tax with another local tax would do nothing to address the underlying problem of fiddled central funding and burdens imposed from Whitehall.  We can all call for taxes to be "axed" and there would undoubtedly be some political gain in doing so but I think we've had enough of soundbites in the past ten years."