ROMSEY’s mayor has slammed Tory-controlled Test Valley Borough Council’s plans for a 4.1 per cent council tax increase.
Mark Cooper, a borough Lib Dem councillor, said the proposal was “completely out of step with other councils”.
He added that Hampshire County Council and Romsey Town Council were not increasing their council tax levies and that Liberal Democrat Valley Park Parish Council was reducing its precept by six per cent.
Mr Cooper warned that if the 4.1 per cent (£5 a year for a Band D property) is agreed at Test Valley’s full council meeting today (Friday), the authority will lose a £60,000 grant from the Government.
However, borough cabinet spokesman for economics, Peter Giddings, said the £60,000 from the Government’s Communities secretary, Eric Pickles, was only an incentive for local authorities to freeze council tax and the cash was only for a two-year period.
“Our £5 a year increase will bring in an extra £250,000 and it will be permanent,” said Mr Giddings.
Mr Cooper’s view is that the borough should dip into its cash reserves and use that instead of inflicting more hardship on Test Valley residents.
“The borough has £10,673,000 in earmarked reserves and an additional £64,000,000 in investments.
“It is absolutely inexcusable to charge every Band D council tax payer an extra 4.1 per cent. Liberal Democrat councillors will be urging TVBC to step in line with Hampshire and Romsey and go for a zero increase.
“The very worst case scenario, says that if we do this, we would have to draw £175,000 from our ample reserves,” said.
In response to this, Mr Giddings said council tax had to go up to balance the books and raiding cash reserves was not an option.
“This is the first council tax increase for three years. We can’t keep on spending what we are bringing in, or we will end up with what the Americans call a ‘fiscal cliff’.
Our reserves are earmarked for special purposes, including community projects and should not be used to keep down the council tax,” said Mr Giddings. Test Valley’s Lib Dem party leader, Peter Hurst, believes five per cent of the £1.6 million in reserves from the council’s New Homes Bonus scheme should be used to off-set the council tax hike.