Test Valley Borough Councillors have approved plans to vote through a £2.50 council tax rise despite an attempt to reduce it to the rate of inflation.

Councillors were asked to approve the decision of the Cabinet to see council tax rise this year, as well as a £1 fall in the Andover Special Expenses Levy. Liberal Democrat councillors introduced an amendment to limit the rise to the rate of inflation, 0.7 per cent, which would have seen an increase of £1.02.

However, following debate, councillors voted broadly along party lines, with the Conservatives and Andover Independents Party voting against the amendment. The council tax rise was subsequently approved.

Councillors met at a full council meeting of Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) on February 26 to consider a number of items, including the council tax rise.

A decision to increase the tax from £146.41 to £148.91 for Band D properties had been taken at a cabinet meeting of TVBC on February 10, and it was now up to councillors to decide whether or not to approve that decision.

Introducing the motion, TVBC’s finance portfolio holder, Cllr Maureen Flood, said that the council was “reap the benefit” of its financial management, saying: “We do have reserves at a level that can sustain this one-off deficit without jeopardising service delivery.”

She said that TVBC was awaiting an announcement in the national budget to see how its finances would fare in the future, with a potential budget gap of up to 20 per cent of the council’s general fund anticipated. However, she said that the current draw on reserves of £126,000 to fund the smaller increase was “important”.

Cllr Celia Dowden, from the Liberal Democrats, then proposed an amendment to the council tax rise, which sought to limit the rise to that of the consumer price index, a measure of inflation. This would see a rise of only 0.7 per cent, or £1.02.

She said: “This is not the time to increase the burden on low paid workers and those just about managing. We can do better than impose a 1.71 per cent increase.”

She referred to Hampshire County Council and other bodies, which have recently decided to increase their proportion of council tax, saying that on average, residents of Test Valley will need to pay a further £85 in council taxes this year.

“Rarely have people faced such difficult times,” she said. “If ever there was a time to dig deep and offer the most support, it is now.

"We want Test Valley to support residents every step of the way because we can."

Cllr John Parker, another Liberal Democrat, concurred with Cllr Dowden, and said that TVBC “can choose to make a gesture of support to our residents”.

“We’re trying to balance prudence against humanity,” he said. “The bottom line is, as we can, we should show a gesture of support for our council tax payers, we should decide to limit the council tax to the rate of inflation.”

Cllr Victoria Harber, while in support of the motion, queried whether a smaller rise now would lead to a larger increase next year.

This was picked up on by Cllr Nick Adams-King, who said the smaller increase, funded by additional reserve funds, would “deplete” them for another day.

He said: “Prudent must be our watchword. We have been prudent over the last few years. We equally have to do as much as we possibly can to support our residents in need.

“We don’t just do that by cutting the amount by which we increase council tax, we do it in a number of different ways, and I’m very proud of the very proactive ways in which we do that.”

Cllr Nick Matthews agreed, saying he had been contacted by members of the public who said they would be in favour of a £5 tax increase, the largest allowed without a referendum, and accused the Liberal Democrats of wanting to “paint the streets with gold”.

He said: “We owe the residents a bit more respect. We have to maintain sustainability and I think we’ve done exactly the right thing here.

“We’ve not taken the view of increasing the council tax by as much as we could have done”.

Cllr David Coole, of the Andover Independents, then spoke, and proposed that TVBC should instead raise its council tax by the full £5, rather than limiting it as suggested by the other parties.

He said: “I’m not a supporter of being one of the cheapest councils in the country. If we want to deliver services for residents then they have to pay for it unless we can generate it by other means.”

He said that a £5 rise was less than two cups of coffee, though noted that other bodies were raising their taxes by larger amounts in addition.

He said: “We should not penalise ourselves just because they are doing that. We have to look to what we want to achieve and set budgets accordingly. Every time we dig into reserves we undermine our future abilities to do that.”

A vote was then held on the amendment, with Liberal Democrat members of the council, as well as Cllr Harber and Cllr Richard Rowles, voting in favour. All other members voted against, defeating the motion.

When a vote on the original proposal was held, the motion passed, with 23 votes in favour and 13 against.