Hart Council plans to challenge what it claims is the "huge part" of its budget "wasted" on the "Blairite agenda of remorseless red tape," currently costing Hart taxpayers up to £1.5 million a year.

Finance boss Coun. Lorraine Fullbrook says that as the only council in the country not getting a penny from the Government for four years, Hart should cease to go along with their non-stop "initiatives".

She says that the millions flowing out on things like "comprehensive performance assessments" do not get one extra bin emptied.

She said since Labour was elected in 1997, there has been "a never-ending stream of directives thudding on to the doorsteps of every council in Britain."

While often well-intentioned, like the "best value review," they actually result in tens of thousands of hours of time wasted by council officers, who then produce massive reports on their thoughts, says Lorraine.

Hart's "best value document" weighed much the same as a brick and cost £28 a copy to produce, she said.

At a meeting of Hart Council Mrs. Fullbrook, cabinet member for finances, persuaded the council to review all its Government-imposed "initiatives" and "partnership arrangements."

She added, in a motion supported by the controlling Conservative group and passed by the council: "I call on all officers, in agreement with the respective cabinet members, to identify the minimum expenditure required to meet our statutory obligations and to justify any expenditure above the minimum by the end of January, for consideration in the next budget."

Lorraine concluded: "Huge council tax rises are set for the south this year as the Government diverts our money to its friends in the north.

"What can we say to Hampshire taxpayers: ‘Be comforted, your money will be well spent up north'? We would also like parity with Surrey Heath, the council which runs Camberley and district and gets 24 per cent of its budget in Government grants, yet is a very similar community to our own."

Hart Conservative Coun. Sean Holden, cabinet member for communication, told the Star: "Why do council tax bills have to rise above the level of inflation? Unlike when choosing private suppliers, the public has no choice over their council and should not have to suffer above- inflation rises."

And Lorraine Fullbrook concluded: "Just satisfying the Government's auditors costs Hart people £122,000 a year. It has to be right that our focus is firmly fixed on our own people and their needs, not those involving Government processes and institutions, over and above our legal obligations. So we'll do the minimum required to put ticks in their boxes."