HOUSEHOLDS in Winchester district will enjoy a below-inflation rise in the cost of city council services.

The authority  is intending to only increase council tax by 2.6 per cent.

The main chunk of people's council tax bills goes to the county council which plans to increase its bill by 4.99 per cent.

But Winchester City Council, which provides services such as council housing and bin collections, proposes to increase the change for a Band D house to £159.63, a rise of £4.07.

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The budget was branded "bland" by senior Conservative councillor Caroline Brook at the scrutiny committee last week.

But Cllr Neil Cutler welcomed the criticism. He told Cabinet the budget was balanced and maintains core services, as well as keeping community grants to local groups and charities, dropped by many other authorities. "The last thing we want is a buccaneering and entrepreneurial budget that Woking was proposing a few years ago and look at them now," he said.

The last comment was a reference to the councils that are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. Many, including Hampshire County Council, have been thumped by soaring costs of social care, school transport and housing the homeless.

The county has been helped by a £10m Government grant. Winchester has received one of £130,000, said council leader Martin Tod.

Cllr Cutler said the next couple of years to 2026 looked stable for Winchester but the medium term was uncertain, with a potential £4m shortfall by 2028-29.

He said the council was looking at ways to improve services such as digitising planning applications to make it easier.

The Cabinet approved the increase which will be rubber-stamped at the full Council on Thursday February 22.