NEGOTIATIONS are underway between the town and borough council to ‘reduce and eventually remove’ a controversial tax for Andover residents – but there is “much more work” still to be done, according to a borough councillor.

Town councillors are hoping to take on a range of services currently handled by the borough council under the Andover Special Expenses Levy.

The council charges for these services, set at £23.05 for Band D properties, which is paid by residents in the parish of Andover on top of their usual council tax.

The levy has proved contentious in the past, with the previous town council administration considering legal action against the borough council having felt they had exhausted talks with the authority.

Now a negotiating teams has begun discussions over the transfer of these services from the borough to the town council.

The negotiating team comprises Councillors David Coole (Andover Independents Party, Romans ward) and Christopher Ecclestone (Andover Independents Party, Millway) on behalf of the town council and borough Cllr Nick Adams-King (Conservative, Blackwater) on behalf of Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC).

At a town council meeting last week, Cllr Coole confirmed that negotiations began on February 1 and that TVBC is “happy to consider the transfer of the parish level services to the ATC… thereby reducing and eventually removing the Andover Levy”.

He specified details of a ‘list of priorities’ which has been given to the borough council, outlining plans for a range of services to be transferred to the town council over the course of the coming two-and-a-half years.

Cllr Ecclestone said the move represented a switch from the “thermo-nuclear approach” to the issue which he claimed previous town council had pursued.

Borough Cllr Adams-King later confirmed with the Advertiser that there has been progress, but stressed that there was still much work to be done on both sides.

He said: “We need to be reassured that they have the capacity to deliver that service, and secondly that they have the arrangements to manage it at a cost that’s not going to be significantly higher than the cost to the borough council to manage it.”

“The reasons for that is we have a duty of care to the people of Andover to make sure this doesn’t result in a massive increase in council tax for the people of the town.”

However he noted that the negotiations do mark a “step forward” from previous discussions regarding the levy.

He continued: “We do have, for the first time, their preferred list. They also had a proposed timetable but what was missing was any information on how they might managed these services. The ball is still very much in their court to say, ‘this is how we will manage it’.”

“It’s ambitious, but not unreasonable, but there’s still clearly an awful lot of work that needs to be done on both sides.

“But it’s a step forward because we’ve never had a prioritised list before after years of asking for it.”