East Hants is the authority that collects Council tax. This is then distributed to 5 organisations including HCC who get the bulk at about 30%. EHDC, The Police and Horndean Parish Council each get about 8 to 9% with the remaining 4% going to Hampshire Fire and Rescue. Band D properties contribute about £125 a year to EHDC. For this the bins are emptied weekly and streets are kept maintained (£4.3m a year), we run a planning service (£3.9m a year), administer revenue and benefits, building control, dog wardens, environmental health and dozens of other services (the remaining £4.2m a year).
In the last few years our government grant income has been reduced by £3m which is a large reduction to an organisation which costs £12m a year to run, but East Hants has kept Council Tax at a Zero increase for 6 of the last 8 years. If we had simply added this onto our council tax instead, every home would have had an increase of £62 per year. We have been able to absorb this through cost cutting measures like sharing a executive management team with Havant Borough Council, better procurement on waste collections in partnership with Winchester Council, outsourcing out I.T to Hampshire County Council who provide a cost effective service for 6 authorities and a dozen other examples.
Our annual savings amount to £1.5m a year so far. Currently we have £13m invested in commercial properties to let. Not only do these generate increased equity with time, but they also bring in an income of 6.5 to 7%, nearly £900,000 a year.
We expect that over the next 5 years the Government grant support for Councils will reduce significantly further and we are looking at how we absorb this without any increases in Council Tax. There is very little fat at EHDC and much of the new income will be through new ventures and investment.
As a planning authority we have an in house team of solicitors who prepare formal documents for planning applications. Very soon we will be offering legal services to the residents of East Hants and beyond. This is likely to include conveyancing and other routine legal offerings. We believe we can offer a trusted local service at a very competitive price that does not get spent on flashy offices and shareholder bubbly at ‘Wagtail Thrush and Finch’ of your other local expensive practice. At this time we have over 100 revenue generating ideas which are being examined, and the philosophy is very simple. If by spending £100,000 a year on a project we can generate a return that is greater then we will consider it and the profit goes back into our funding to initially prevent Council Tax increases, and then look to reduce the East Hants share to Zero, reducing every council tax bill in the District by about £125 between now and 2024.
No other authority is doing this.