Something remarkable happened at East Hampshire District Council on February 23. A far cry from the pantomime politics of the House of Commons or Hampshire County Council, in East Hants councillors of all political persuasions backed the district’s welfare-packed budget for 2023-24.
The district’s budget sets out the council’s finances for the next 12 months and, says council leader Richard Millard (Conservative, Headley), has allowed the authority “to put hundreds of thousands of pounds behind brand-new schemes aimed at helping some of the most vulnerable people in our community”.
And putting his money where his mouth is, Cllr Millard announced 12 new projects that will provide vital support for local residents in the difficult financial climate.
The new schemes range from advice on dealing with the rising cost of living to community buses to help people get about, from swimming lessons for children to support groups for older people, and from bike hire in Whitehill & Bordon to speed cameras at traffic hot spots.
In total, £350,000 has been put aside in next year’s budget to fund welfare schemes such as these. That total includes every penny raised by a two per cent increase in council tax, around £150,000 – an increase which is in itself notable, being below the 2.99 per cent increase allowed by the government this year.
Cllr Millard said: “The wellbeing of our residents is this council’s top priority, so I am delighted to announce that thanks to the prudent way we run our finances, we can dedicate more than £350,000 to welfare projects.
“The 12 projects we are announcing now will help thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds across East Hampshire. And we would not be able to do any of them if it wasn’t for the strong financial footing we have developed as a council.
“The budget we have prepared for next year tackles major increases in expenditure while keeping the council tax burden on our residents low.”