A fairer and more consistent approach to how the Council charges for services that people can opt to use is to be implemented in the new year.
A new fees and charges policy agreed by Cabinet aims to ensure fees and charges reflect the true cost of providing the service and that future increases are tracked against the Consumer Price Index (CPI) so rises are more gradual rather than suddenly increasing by larger amounts every few years.
The Council will be putting the policy into practice before the start of the 2017/18 financial year.
This will mean some charges that have not risen for a while will initially increase by a higher amount than CPI in order to reflect the true cost of delivering them.
The fees and charges cover a range of services which are currently much lower than the actual cost of providing them. Residents are able to choose whether they use the Council’s service or one of the many commercial operators also providing that service.
In some areas the Council will be working towards recovering the full costs of the services but has limited the increase next year to five per cent in order to avoid a large increase at one time.
Charges for some services will increase by a ‘commercial uplift’ to better reflect the market rate elsewhere. For example, adult admission to the Mayflower Museum will increase from £2.50 to £3 to better reflect the fees of similar attractions.
Councillor Ian Darcy, Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “This is the first comprehensive review of how the Council charges for all its discretionary services and it has highlighted some issues that we really need to address to make them fairer in future.
“With the Council facing severe budget shortfalls as its funding reduces, it is no longer acceptable for optional services not to be covering the real cost of providing them.
“It is also not fair on the users of these chargeable services to be faced with sudden increases every few years. We will avoid this by linking annual increases to the consumer price index in future.
“We will have a much fairer and more transparent pricing structure which will help protect valued local services, and provide better value to all council tax payers.”
This decision may be subject to call in for scrutiny.