Speaking in the House of Commons on Thursday, Sir George said the Government had listened to Hampshire MP's and improved the deal for next year above the level that had been feared. But he warned that big increases lay ahead, because of the changes in the formula that the Government use to distribute grant. He asked for assurances that there would be no steep increases in future years. The Minister said he hoped that steep increases might be avoided.
Commenting on the Government's record, Sir George said later that new figures obtained by Conservatives revealing how Hampshire has received a poor funding deal under Labour, pushing up council tax.
The new figures, exposed in answer to a Parliamentary question, reveal that only 66.1% per cent of the County Council’s needs were funded by government grants in 2002, compared to 68.3% per cent in 1997. As a result, council tax has had to rise to meet this shortfall. Sir George said:
“Residents of Hampshire deserves a better deal. Labour have tampered with local funding, forcing the council to ramp up council tax else cut local public services. This is the ultimate stealth tax – engineered by the Government, but with local councillors taking the blame.
“The Government have been far less generous than they claim. Every year they spin headline figures of ‘increases’ in government grant, but they have they have loaded councils with new burdens, taxes and bureaucracy. Local authorities’ needs have risen far faster than central government funding. Local taxpayers have ended up footing the bill.”