COUNCIL TAX payers in Hampshire will be paying more than £70 a year to the county council from April and the authority’s finances have “never been bleaker”.

Hampshire County Council said the 4.99 per cent rise will earn it an extra £39 million – but it’s still not enough.

The new rates, the maximum allowed without a referendum, will see a band D home pay £1,533.24 from April, a rise of £72.99 per year or roughly £1.40 per week.

It will mean the authority will earn more than £826m from council tax in the next financial year and households will also face increases in the amounts they pay to the police and crime commissioner, fire authority and district councils.

According to the council papers, extra money from the government, business rates and tax base figures mean income for the next financial year is set to be more than expected.

That means it will need to use £10.6m less of its Budget Bridging Reserve than it thought, leaving extra funding for future years.

Still, a deficit of £74.1m is expected for 2024/25, which will be met from the reserves. By doing so, the county council can deliver a balanced budget for the upcoming year as it is legally required to do.

Despite the extra cash from the government, pressures in school transport, special educational needs and adult social care will mean the county council can’t meet the £132 million gap for 2025/26.

County council leader Councillor Rob Humby said: “At a time when household budgets are also under considerable pressure, the decision to increase our portion of the council tax by 4.99 per cent from April this year has been a very difficult one.

“Even with this increase, it’s not enough to close the significant gap in our budget in 2024/25, which we must fill from our reserves.

“Having this financial ‘safety net’ in the form of our reserves sees us safely through the upcoming financial year, but this money will very soon run out, and without the fundamental national changes we have been calling for to the way local government is funded overall, we must look closely at what the county council can continue to deliver in the years to come.”

Leader of the Liberal Democrats group, councillor Keith House said that the council’s position is bleak and sits “on the edge of steeper financial precipice”.

He also strongly criticised Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the county’s Tory MPs who “keep voting for poverty in public services” across the county.