Agenda item

Report of Cabinet - 6 December 2023




Item 3 – Medium Term Financial Plan 2023 Onwards


One Member highlighted the burden placed on motorists of the New Forest by raising car parking fees and charges.  In response, the Portfolio Holder for Finance and Corporate highlighted that the Council’s decision on this matter had provided for service users of car parks to contribute towards an appropriate level of fees and charges, rather than the wider local population, some of whom may not be able to afford a car.


Item 5 – Supporting the Armed Forces and the Armed Forces Covenant


The Council’s Armed Forces Member Champion welcomed the amendment made at the Cabinet meeting, to recognise explicitly in the recommendations all four services and Armed Forces charities.  Other Members welcomed the report and the work underway across the Council.


One Member highlighted the work of the Royal British Legion, including recent campaigns for a Veterans Commissioner for England.  He encouraged councillors to keep in touch with this work and to support their campaigns where relevant and appropriate in support of the covenant commitments.





Item 6 – Transformation Strategy 2024-2028 (Future New Forest – Transforming Tomorrow, Together)


The Leader introduced the item and moved the recommendations from the Cabinet meeting.  Cllr Heron seconded the motion.


Some Members highlighted the importance of maintaining face-to-face customer services for residents, ensuring this worked for all parts of the New Forest.  Consultation in respect of any proposed changes was also highlighted as a key aspect of bringing both staff and residents along the Transformation journey.


The Portfolio Holder for Finance and Corporate highlighted that Transformation was a broader improvement programme wider than customer services alone, which in itself was designed to achieve efficiencies.  This would allow the Council to consider options to maintain or enhance capacity for those residents who engaged with the Council in a non-digital way.


In responding to the debate, the Leader committed to maintaining a face-to-face customer offer for those residents who needed it, alongside ensuring that meaningful consultation was undertaken and considered throughout the process.




That the Transformation Strategy at Appendix 1 and the Year One Indicative Work Programme at Appendix 2 of the Cabinet report, be approved.


Item 7 – Council Tax 2024/25 – Setting the Tax Base


Cllr Heron introduced the item and moved the recommendations from the Cabinet meeting.  Cllr Cleary seconded the motion.






(a)   The calculation of the Council’s tax base for the year 2024/25 be approved; and


(b)   Pursuant to the report and in accordance with the Local Authorities (Calculation of Council Tax Base) (England) Regulations 2012, the amount calculated by this Council as its council tax base for the year 2024/25 be as follows and as detailed in Appendix 3 of the Cabinet report:-



TAX BASE 24/25

Ashurst & Colbury




















Denny Lodge


East Boldre


Ellingham, Harbridge & Ibsley


Exbury & Lepe














Hythe & Dibden


Lymington & Pennington








Milford on Sea




Netley Marsh


New Milton












Totton & Eling






Whole District



Item 8 – Council Tax Reduction Scheme 2024/25, Housing Benefit Income Disregard and National Non-Domestic Rate Relief Policy Review


Cllr Heron introduced the item and moved the recommendations from the Cabinet meeting.  Cllr Cleary seconded the motion.


A Member of the Task and Finish Group expressed his concern about moving forward with changes, given the low levels of consultation response.  Some Members asked how this might be addressed moving forwards.  A member highlighted the volume of consultations the public were currently being asked to respond to and this might be presenting in fatigue to the exercise, without assurance that the responses were truly impactful on the final design of proposals.


In response to the debate, the Portfolio Holder shared Members’ disappointment with the low number of consultation responses.  However, the context for the report was £9.5 million of resident support, which had been received well by partner agencies, many of which were advocates for those hard to reach groups that Members recognised were important to engage.






(a)   An increase the standard earnings disregard and removal of the additional earnings disregard, as detailed in Section 7 of the Cabinet report, from 1 April 2024, be approved;


(b)   That a Task and Finish Group review a Banded scheme during 2024;


(c)   That the full disregard of war pension income in the assessment of Housing Benefit, as detailed in Section 9 of the Cabinet report, be approved; and


(d)   That the updated National Non-Domestic Rate Relief policy as detailed in Section 10 of the Cabinet report, be approved.


Item 9 – Freedom Leisure Contract Variation


Cllr Poole introduced the item and moved the recommendations from the Cabinet meeting.  Cllr Cleary seconded the motion.


Cllr Rackham moved the following amendment as an addition to the recommendation:-


“That the support offered to Freedom Leisure is conditional, upon Freedom Leisure guaranteeing that existing services used by established community groups are protected and maintained.”


Cllr M Wade seconded the amendment.


Members speaking for the amendment highlighted the contract variations undertaken to support Freedom Leisure to date, and concerns that this would continue into the future, coupled with uncertainty for community use of the facilities.


Members speaking against the amendment highlighted the improved financial position of the Council having entered into the partnership with Freedom Leisure.  It was suggested that in operating the leisure centres, Freedom should be entitled to make operational decisions to the benefit of all customers and users of the facilities.  Some Members expressed that the recent swimming club consultation could have been handled better and lessons could be learnt moving forward on any proposed service changes.


In responding to the debate on the amendment, Cllr Rackham highlighted the uncertainty faced by community groups and the need for protection of their use of the facilities they depended upon.


In responding to the debate on the amendment, the Portfolio Holder for Community, Safety and Wellbeing reiterated that Freedom Leisure needed to make operational decisions on the running of leisure services.  He concluded by reminding the Council that had it not entered into the partnership, the full financial burden for the rising cost of utilities would be with the Council.


Put to the vote, the amendment was lost.


The Council continued to debate the substantive motion.  One Member highlighted the global energy crisis that could not have been foreseen when the Council entered into the partnership and in doing so, it had allowed the Council to share this burden instead of having to address the full financial impact alone.  Some Members expressed their concern that the contract continued to be subject to variations, and this was changing the landscape of the original benefits of the partnership arrangements.


In responding to the debate on the substantive motion, the Portfolio Holder for Community, Safety and Wellbeing reminded the Council that five leisure centres remained open for business in the New Forest, and without the support of a partner to share the burden of the utility costs, the Council would be looking at how the full financial burden could be addressed.  In many other local authority areas, this gap had been addressed by the closure of some facilities.


A request for a recorded vote was supported by the requisite additional 11 Members.  Subsequently, the substantive motion of the report of Cabinet was put to a recorded vote, the outcome of which was as follows:-


Voting for:- Cllrs Alvey, Armstrong, Clarke, Cleary, Craze, Crisell, Dunning, Glass, Hartmann, Hawkins, Heron, Linford, Murray, O’Sullivan, Penman, Penny, Poole, Reid, Rickman, Rippon-Swaine, Sleep, Thierry, Tipp, Tungate, Ward and Young.


Voting against:- Cllrs Brand, Cullen, J Davies, Dowd, Harrison, Haywood, Mballa, McCarthy, Millar, Millington, Osborne, Parker, Rackham, Reilly, Richards, M Wade and Woods.


Abstaining:- None.


The motion was carried, 26 in favour, 17 against, 0 abstaining.




That the proposals set out in the Cabinet report be approved, to vary the contract with Freedom Leisure to deal with the significant challenges presented by the unforeseen increases in energy costs, achievable via the incorporation of a mechanism for the Council to share the cost of utilities over and above the costs assumed in the bid.


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