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First council tax reduction revealed

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East Hampshire DC has become the first local authority to propose a reduction in council tax for 2017-18.

If approved, the 2.6% cut would be the district’s second consecutive reduction following a 2% decrease last year.

Leaders are also proposing to commit to a third cut in 2018-19 in a bid to bring council tax in the district down to its lowest level since 2006-07.

The move to reduce council tax bills by 2.6% will cost the council £170,000 and is part of the council’s strategy to become financially independent. 

Leader Ferris Cowper (Con) has previously expressed a desire to cut council tax to zero by 2024.

Referring to the latest cut, Cllr Cowper said: “We are proposing to reduce our council tax at a time when nearly all local authorities are increasing their charge by the maximum amount allowed by government.

“East Hampshire DC has stated its ambition to bring council tax down to zero and is committed to making itself free from reliance on government grant. This latest cut, and the promise to make further tax cuts next year, backs up this commitment with positive action.

“We have shown it is possible for councils to make their own money, without increasing the tax burden on their residents and without cutting services.”

The council claims it has been able to make the cut due to the success of its business strategies and its property investments.

For example, council departments have been marketing their services to other authorities and local organisations to bring in extra income.

East Hampshire’s planning services, community team, communications, programmes, neighbourhood planning and the regeneration team, RegenCo, are expected to make a collective contribution approaching £1m.

The council has also bought six commercial properties since 2013 totalling £12.5m, the latest being the Iceland store on Alton High Street. These properties generate almost £850,000 income in rent every year which the council says is about £700,000 more than could be gained through interest on cash deposits.

If agreed by cabinet tomorrow, the proposed cut will be put to full council for approval on 23 February.

If accepted it will make East Hampshire’s share of council tax for a Band D property £131.11, down from £134.55.

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