Budget brings a dozen new ways to help
Strong council finances means more help for those who need it
This year’s budget has allowed us to put hundreds of thousands of pounds behind brand new schemes aimed at helping some of the most vulnerable people in our community.
On Thursday night (February 23) councillors approved the 2023/2024 budget, setting out the council’s finances for the next 12 months.
And EHDC Leader Cllr Richard Millard announced twelve 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 percent increase in Council Tax, around £150,000.
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.
Delivering by the dozen
Our twelve new welfare schemes are:
1. Cost-of-living outreach
An outreach worker will attend the luncheon clubs, community centres, GP surgeries and other organisations to talk to residents about the help on offer during the rising cost-of-living.
2. Cost of Living initiatives
We will support foodbanks, emergency heating projects, a scheme to provide white goods and promote our support for guests from Ukraine
3. Investing in Planning Enforcement
Following last year's investment in the service the number of enforcement notices we served spiked over the last 12 months. We are building on this great work with further investment into our Planning Enforcement team in 2023/2024.
4. Community Transport
In partnership with Community First we will provide an East Hampshire Health and Wellbeing bus to residents, particularly those in rural areas, to get them to medical appointments or welfare services.
5. Recycling rates
We will drive down contamination in recycling and improving our recycling rates through an education programme in schools.
6. Children's swimming lessons
The cost of lessons means some children don’t get the chance to learn to swim properly. With our partners Everyone Active, we will offer up to 500 children free access to a 12-week course of swimming lessons at our fantastic Swimming Pools.
7. Men’s Sheds
We will provide a building for Men’s Shed, a charity where local men and women can meet, make and mend things, reducing isolation and loneliness.
8. Wheels to Work
We will buy two additional electric mopeds that will give young people living in isolated rural areas the wheels they need to get to work or training.
9. ‘Let’s Get East Hants Green' campaign
Later this year we plan to launch a campaign to inspire young people to connect with nature and protect and enhance their local environment. This will include a habitat creation kits for schoolchildren to grow food and improve biodiversity.
10. Stock Condition Survey
All local authorities have an obligation to make sure housing conditions in East Hampshire are up to scratch. We will run a stock condition survey to make sure local homes are in good condition.
11. Speedwatch Cameras
Speeding on our roads can be a serious danger to residents. We will buy ten speed cameras for towns and villages in East Hampshire where traffic speeds are a real problem.
12. Riding the Green Loop - Free Bike Hire Scheme
This summer we will launch a free bike hire scheme on the Green Loop in Whitehill & Bordon, giving visitors the chance to enjoy the award-winning 7km green loop through the town. Ten bikes, including a mix of electric and conventional bikes, will be available.
Keeping our budget balanced
We have had to overcome tough financial pressures to produce a balanced budget, including £2.4 million in rising inflation costs.
This has been met through investment returns, more efficient services and from savings accrued from splitting with Havant Borough Council.
This year the Government allowed councils to increase Council Tax by up to 3 per cent but we are planning an increase of just 2 per cent, keeping our Council Tax among the lowest in the area.
The £2.4 million increase in costs, largely down to inflation, has been tackled in several ways. A transformation process - a concerted effort to re-shape our services and devise new, more efficient ways to deliver them - is expected to save £500,000 in efficiencies, with more to come.
Successful cash investments have reaped another £500,000, and the same sum again will be saved in staffing costs thanks to the separation from Havant Borough Council.
Cllr Charles Louisson, EHDC Portfolio Holder for Finance, said: “These are challenging financial times for us all and it has been a difficult task to create a budget that manages the increases in our costs and allows us to meet our welfare ambitions while not placing a financial burden on our residents.
“Our Council Tax increase of two per cent will gather a further £150,000 to the council, every penny of which will go towards our raft of new welfare projects.
“This year, changes of Government rules allowed councils to increase Council Tax by three per cent, but we have not gone so far.
“We have also made Council Tax repayments easier for residents by offering the option to pay in 12 monthly instalments instead of ten, reducing the monthly payment by about 15 per cent.”