TEST Valley Borough Council is preparing to hike its tax for the second year running – but will avoid raising it enough to trigger a referendum.

The authority says it wants to raise its yearly charge by 3.8 per cent this year, with residents in Band D properties set to see their bill jump from £131.41 to £136.41 in April.

Council chiefs estimate this will bring in an extra £340,000, with TVBC expecting to rake in a total of £6.4 million in tax as a result of the rise and the increased number of houses in the borough.

The latest hike, which is the second consecutive £5 rise from TVBC, is above the two percent threshold needed to trigger a public vote.

However TVBC is allowed a maximum rise equivalent to £5 for Band D properties, due to its status as a “low tax” authority.

Addressing the need for a rise, a report to the council’s cabinet on Wednesday suggested cuts to government grants were to blame.

The report says the council will draw on its New Homes Bonus reserve to balance its books.

It adds that the council should also “take the opportunity”

to implement a precept rise, with the government not offering a council tax freeze bonus this year.

However the decision to raise tax for a second consecutive year has drawn criticism.

Liberal Democrat vicechairman for North West Hampshire, Len Gates said: “I’m not really surprised to see local Tories once again hiking up council tax by the maximum they can get away with for the second year running.

“Every four years they stand for election on a platform of keeping taxes low and giving value for money but as soon as they are elected their promises are forgotten.”

Another person to criticise the rise is independent Hampshire County Council representative for Andover South, councillor Tony Hooke.

He said: “There doesn’t need to be any price hikes at all. As I’ve said all along, if people do the job properly we can actually cut council tax.

“They are a small council who look after taking the bins – it’s unfair that they are raising taxes again.

“Give me a week in that fiefdom and I would save the borough £3million-a-year.”

Despite the criticism, the council says it has explored other ways of raising revenue as well as taking steps to reduce its own costs.

The authority says it has saved more than £10 million since 2008 and has proposed revenue savings of more than £500,000.

The majority of these latest savings come from staffing changes, including redundancies and not replacing vacant roles.

The council also hopes to generate an extra £900,000 of income this year, including £686,000 from its new project enterprise scheme.

The scheme involves the council purchasing property and land, which they rent out for a profit.

One major increase in revenue has been the additional £1.7 million the council anticipates it will bring in by 2020 from its new leisure management contract, recently awarded to Places for People Leisure.

The latest £5 council tax rise, which was given the thumbs up the TVBC’s cabinet on Wednesday, will now go before full council.