COUNCIL chiefs’ plans to balance the budget have faced criticism, with claims that it is ‘passing the buck’.

Winchester City Council’s cabinet presented its medium-term financial strategy for the next four years, as it aims to fill a gap of almost £7million.

Around £5 million of the shortfall is associated with a cut in funding from central government, with plans to close the deficit by increasing parking charges, hiking council tax bills by three per cent and putting up fees and charges. The tax will be set next Wednesday at full Council.

Cllr Neil Cutler, member for finance and risk, reported the budget to cabinet last week, however it sparked backlash.

Tory councillor Caroline Brook said she expected much of the methods to balance the books would be passed on to residents. She said: “The administration seems to have passed the buck in general, we blame the government, we blame the county council, we blame the previous administration and the complete lack of leadership and ownership in identifying generating income has lead to taxes and stealth taxes on the residents of our district.

“Every single one of the residents should be angry about how this is costing them. I am angry and central Winchester residents should be particularly angry because they get the double whammy of Lib Dem rises via the Winchester Town Forum and via this administration, I am really disappointed.”

And opposition leader Cllr Caroline Horrill said: “There is clear blue water between ourselves, as the Conservative group, and your administration regarding the finances and you’ve benefitted from the lack of a long term settlement from the government, the short term result is better than we had predicted. You have a win fall which Cllr Cutler and the officers made us aware of the other day from the underspend from this year and the pension money. So significant additions to your pot of money in fact several million pounds more than you were anticipating and predicting for this budget.

“So, the extensive charging of residents across the multitude of activities where in fact many residents have no choices that you are giving to them is very disappointing.”

However, this was met with judgement on the Conservatives previous budgets from cabinet members.

Cllr Martin Tod, the authority’s cabinet member for service quality and transformation, said: “Cllr Cutler highlighted that we have set a budget for 20/21 and forecasted 21/22 which is break even, now before I came to this meeting I got a copy of the same paper that the Conservatives presented this time last year to see what their forecast for those two years and what it shows their forecast, the plan we inherited for those two years showed a deficit of £6.5million pounds that needed to be found over those two years which there were no plans to identify.”

The medium term financial strategy will go before full council tonight (Wednesday).