PLANS to increase council tax by nearly three per cent in Winchester have been approved unanimously, but more than £66million of capital spending faced fierce opposition.

City councillors gave the go-ahead for the 2.9 per cent increase, as well as the budget for the year to April 2019 and the council’s medium term financial strategy at a full council meeting which lasted for more than five hours last Thursday evening.

The rise will see band D bills rise from £134.99 a year to £138.92, plus from £65.21 to £67.17 for residents in the Winchester town area.

That followed news from Hampshire County Council that they had voted to increase their council tax precept by 5.9 per cent (see above).

The meeting also saw the Winchester City Council’s spending plans approved for the forthcoming financial year, despite opposition from Lib Dem councillors.

A total of more than £66m is forecast to be spent on capital, with nearly £23m budgeted for housing, £1m for Bishop’s Waltham depot plans, £1.2m on the Station Approach redevelopment and £7.5m on the new sports and leisure centre set to be built at Bar End to replace the run-down River Park Leisure Centre.

The budget also forecast £1.35m of capital spending on car parks and more than £15m on its strategic investment scheme known as SAPS.

However, Lib Dem group leader Cllr Lucille Thompson tabled an amendment – which was later defeated – calling for money to be set aside for the Central Winchester Regeneration project, known as Silver Hill 2; purchase of glass recycling containers; and repair and refurbishment of the Buttercross.

Fellow Lib Dem Cllr Kelsie Learney said: “I’d like to reassure members that extensive consultations have taken place with council officers before this amendment. The state of Winchester is in steady decline according to residents.”

But Conservative councillor and leader Caroline Horrill dismissed the amendment as a “song and dance for the press”.

Fellow Tory councillor Ian Tait added that Cllr Thompson was being “disingenuous” about the Buttercross. He said: “There’s provision in the budget, this is a childish and pathetic amendment.”