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A grand record

AN INFAMOUS milestone could soon be passed in Fleet and Church Crookham — its next Band D council tax bill looks like smashing the £1,000 barrier.

People living in these ‘average’ homes could have to fork out an extra £135.52 a year with their bills likely to rocket to £1,102.42 from April 1.

But the 14% overall increase is largely due to Hampshire County Council and the police authority, who are both proposing large increases in their shares of the bill.

The county share looks set to go up by £109.89 to £844.56 while the police authority’s demand is likely to increase by £22.14 to £97.29.

Hart Council looks set to up its share by £2.88 to £117.96, while the special expense demand for people living in Fleet and Church Crookham is expected to rise by 61p to £42.61.

All the figures have still got to be approved and people living in the parished areas of Hart, including Hook, Odiham and Hartley Wintney, will have to pay a precept in place of the Fleet and Church Crookham special expense. Those figures are also still to be finalised.

Meanwhile, cash-strapped Hart is having to make a series of cuts as it struggles to meet its budget guidelines for this year.

Finance chief David Skelton said fears that the council might lose up to £600,000 this year have been allayed.

But he added: “However, despite the government’s announcement that all councils would receive a minimum 3% increase in external finance, Hart only received an increase of 0.7% (£27,000) due to a ‘re-basing’ of the previous year’s spending.”

Officers have drawn up a list of savings put into four categories based on how much they will affect service delivery from ‘slight’ to ‘major’ effects.

Savings identified by officers include £5,500 on reduced printing and stationery costs, £8,000 on reduced CCTV consultant costs and saving £7,000 by not producing a recycling newsletter.

Officers have also proposed saving £5,000 on reduced path maintenance, £9,600 on putting plans to resurface Hook car park on hold and £6,000 on reduced health and safety training.

Separate savings of £19,000 each could be achieved by scrapping the council’s in-house pest control service and out-of-hours noise service, while savings of £20,000 each could be made by reducing contributions to The Point Youth Club in Fleet and the Basingstoke Canal.

Hart could save £89,000 by reducing its concessionary travel scheme to the statutory minimum, £21,000 by withdrawing its Local Government Association membership and £3,500 by reducing its civic programme.

Officers have also drawn up a ‘wish list’, including spending an extra £1,700 on catering at council and other meetings.

They are also asking for an extra £123,500 for five new officers under the health, sport and play cost centre.

Separate bids of £1,000 have been made to fund meetings hosted by the chief executive, to deliver In Bloom entry forms to all homes in Fleet and Church Crookham and to clear up after travellers have been moved off council-owned property.

An extra £5,200 is being requested to spruce up the council’s Fleet headquarters in Harlington Way. This includes cleaning carpets in the wings which have not been done since 1999, cleaning fascia boards that were last done three years ago, introducing air fresheners into all civic office toilets and redecorating walls and ceilings.

An extra £4,800 is needed to pay for homelessness medicals as Hart Housing Association cannot meet the increased costs.

Officers have also suggested spending an extra £21,000 on publishing three extra recycling newsletters, another £25,000 on employing a new enforcement officer and a further £34,000 on employing a senior planner.

However, officers have also put the potential costs of restructuring and redundancy at £250,000 and the potential cost of unsuccessful planning appeals at £30,000.


LIBERAL Democrats have slammed a Conservative-backed plan to scrap Hart’s out-of-hours noise service.

The Tories say they can save almost £20,000 a year by introducing the cutback but Liberal Democrat leader Cllr David Simpson is not impressed.

“People may no longer be able to immediately contact their council regarding incidents of noise pollution such as rowdy revellers returning from the pubs in the early hours or faulty burglar alarms going off for no reason,” he warned.

“The saving, while having little impact on Hart’s overall budget, will significantly affect residents plagued by noisy neighbours and passers-by.

“Hart currently receives about 400 calls a year to its messenger service, of which maybe half require urgent action from environmental health duty officers.

“The council is under a statutory duty to provide a service to respond to noise complaints no matter what time of day or night and the service is greatly welcomed by the police, who have no legal powers to resolve this type of incident.

“As recently as 1999, 86% of the public who used the service rated it satisfactory or good.

“Once again the Conservatives on Hart show that they recognise the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

“If services like this are no longer safe from the current Tory councillors, what’s next? Our open spaces and our leisure centres?”


Charlotte Neal
Chief Reporter (Aldershot)
Joshua Smith
Farnborough Reporter
Jon Couch
Sport Editor
Stephen Lloyd
Fleet & Yateley Reporter
Ros Collins
Junior News & Mail
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