East Hampshire District Council has once again set itself apart from other local authorities up and down the country by cutting council tax bills
Yes, you read that right: For the second consecutive year, East Hampshire District Council is cutting council tax rates. Following a 2% reduction last year, the authority has announced it will reduce council tax by 2.6% for 2017/2018.
East Hampshire District Council (EHDC) has also committed to a third cut for the 2018/2019 period, which will see its share of council tax brought to the lowest level since 2006/2007.
“This is a historic evening,” said EHDC leader Councillor Ferris Cowper. “We are bucking the national trend and cutting our council tax – while all the other local authorities I know of across England and Wales are increasing theirs and often by the maximum amount allowed by central government.
The move is part of the council’s strategy to become financially independent. It comes as the majority of councils confirm plans to increase council tax and introduce a social care precept.
Pursuing a different approach
“This council has the ability to bring council tax down to zero and enable us to not have to rely on government grant,” Cowper went on.
“I hope this latest consecutive cut shows you that we’re pursuing this strategy for the benefit of our residents and businesses.
“We’re doing this by taking a different approach to how councils have traditionally operated – we’re making our own money without cutting services or increasing the burden on our residents.
“My aim is to ensure East Hampshire is as prosperous as it is possible to be and for it to continue to be an amazing community to live in, work in or to visit.”
The council says it has been able to make the cut due to the success of its business strategies and property investments.
Council departments have been marketing their services to other local authorities and organisations as a way of bringing in extra income. Together, EHDC’s Planning Services, Community Team, Communications, Programmes, Neighbourhood Planning and regeneration team, RegenCo, are expected to contribute almost £1 million to the council coffers this year.
The council has also bought six high-quality commercial properties since 2013 totalling £12.5m. These properties generate nearly £850,000 in rent every year – £700,000 more than the authority would have made from interest on cash deposits.