District bucks trend with plans for 2% council tax cut

Conservative run East Hampshire DC is set to cut its council tax by 2%, the only authority so far known to be contemplating a decrease this year.

LGC’s Council Tax Tracker http://www.lgcplus.com/politics-and-policy/finance/lgc-council-tax-tracker-2016/7001621.article?blocktitle=News&contentID=19120 has found financial pressures have forced most councils to propose increases http://www.lgcplus.com/politics-and-policy/finance/freeze-ends-as-almost-50-councils-plan-maximum-tax-hikes/7001732.article of 1.99% – just below the level that would trigger a local referendum – while almost all top tier councils are taking advantage of their new power to raise tax by a further 2% to pay for social care. Just six of the 28 districts for which LGC has so far obtained details of council tax intentions are proposing a freeze next year.

However, papers due to go to East Hampshire’s cabinet this week say council tax for a Band D property would be £134.58, down from the current charge of £137.33.

Leader Ferris Cowper (Con) said he hoped to end reliance on government grant by 2019-20 and reduce council tax to zero by 2024.

Cllr Cowper said East Hampshire would rely instead on “money-making business ventures, selling its services to other local authorities and through investment in blue-chip commercial properties”.

The council has started buying commercial property as an investment and so far owns five buildings including a bank, supermarket and offices.

These generate around £759,000 in annual rent, a sum it said exceeded the interest on equivalent cash deposits by around £650,000.