"Modest" 10p per week increase in Winchester Council Tax

Winchester City Council, last night (Thursday) agreed a 4.9% rise in Council Tax for the coming year after what Cabinet Member Cllr Kelsie Learney described as "a very structured budget process."

This will mean a Council Tax of £113.13 for Band D households, a rise of £5.31. To this must be added amounts for County, Parish, Fire and Rescue and Police services.

"While this increase is of course more than we would have liked, as part of the overall financial package it will give us a good medium term financial framework enabling continuing good services to the public for the next few years," said Cllr Learney.

Presenting the budget proposals Cllr Learney said that in drawing the budget together three core principles had been kept firmly in mind -

• The financial strategy committing the Council to balanced budgets
• corporate priorities and the associated need to move money from non-priority into priority areas
• and the need to protect those services most valuable to our residents

"It did, however, become clear towards the end of the budget process that to commit ourselves to a fully balanced budget this year would have come into conflict with both trying to fund our priorities and the protection of services," she added.

"For this reason the approach we have taken is to use a small amount of the reserves, built up over many years of financial prudence, in 2006/7 to bring us to a position of balance in the following year.

"While we could have gone for deeper cuts this year it would have left us with a surplus in 2007/8. Using reserves allows us to avoid making cuts in services this year that may be reinstated the following year and also to run down, in a managed way, non-priority spending areas."

Cllr Learney said the Council is seeing increased demand for services in a number of areas and the slightly higher than inflation council tax proposed will help pay for an increase in the number of neighbourhood wardens, allowing a broadening of their work, and avoid some of the cuts initially discussed.

She went on "This council has much to be proud of in the past year - the success of our alternate weekly refuse (AWC) collection pilot, the impact wardens have made on our estates, and accolades for environmental health and tourism.

"In the coming year a fifth of our residents and indeed a fifth of our Councillors, will benefit from the introduction of free bus passes. The extension of the neighbourhood warden service will contribute to local residents' peace of mind, and increased mobile and computerised working will see better access to our services from the outskirts of the district. And of course the roll out of AWC will see a massive boost to our contribution to the recycling effort.

"The modest 10p per week we are proposing as a Council tax increase will allow us to carry on all this good work within a prudent financial framework."