TEST Valley Borough Council met on Friday to set the final council tax figure for the next financial year.

The total charged to a Band D tax payer living in the Andover town area from April will rise by £10 from £1,400.80 to £1,410.80.

Half the increase is a result of the decision taken by Test Valley’s councillors to up its part of the charge by 4.1 per cent (£5) to £126.40.

Their decision follows a two year freeze on council tax by the Beech Hurst-based authority, but having been granted special dispensation to increase tax by £5 per year as a low taxing authority, Test Valley decided to implement the increase.

In his budget speech to the council, economic portfolio holder Cllr Peter Giddings said: “Budgeting involves an extremely difficult balancing act between maintaining essential services, and the financial health of the organisation.

“For the past two years we have frozen council tax, but we must be aware that short-term decisions to freeze council tax have long-term consequences.

“I am pleased to say that I can recommend to you a balanced budget, a responsible budget that not only protects front-line services and our most vulnerable residents, but also ensures the continuing financial health of the organisation.

“Rest assured that at £126.41 for a Band D property, our council tax will continue to be one of the lowest in the whole of England.”

Leader of Test Valley Borough Council, Cllr Ian Carr said: “I realise in opting for this small rise in council tax, following a two-year freeze, that there will be an impact on households, but we have sought to keep this to a minimum.

“Indeed Eric Pickles has recognised the plight of small authorities such as Test Valley, who have kept council tax low for years. He has given us a much needed lifeline to raise council tax.

“If we don’t do it this year then the future is going to be very difficult with an escalating year on year impact.”

However there was some criticism from Cllr Mark Cooper about the rise in council tax, he said: “We shouldn’t be increasing because we can, it should be frozen because we can and not taking more than is needed to keep the council afloat.

“Cllr Giddings likes to count the noughts on our bank account, we have plenty of cash for security.

“It may be tough at the moment but it is much tougher out there than it is for us in here.”

Council taxes vary slightly from parish to parish and locally range from £1,395.24 for Band D in Smannell to £1,430.27 in Longparish.