Report urges Norfolk councillors to consider tax rise

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County councillors have been urged to raise their portion of the council tax in order to meet a bigger than expected financial shortfall.

Work to set Norfolk County Council’s budget for the 2015-16 financial year will begin at a meeting of the authority’s policy and resources committee this Friday, September 5.

But, ahead of the meeting, a report from officers has warned that millions of pounds of additional money will have to be found in order to plug an even wider funding gap than previously feared.

The report predicts the county will face a £17.5 million financial shortfall next year, almost £4 million bigger than forecast when the budget for the current financial year was agreed in February.

And it goes on: “Given the stark financial position and potential impact of further funding cuts on some services, one possibility members may wish to consider or consult upon is that of levying a Council Tax increase where the additional income is allocated specifically to a particular service.”

The council said that such a move would be the first rise it has imposed for five years.

And a public consultation on how to meet the financial challenge is also set to be launched this week.

Council leader George Nobbs said the authority was having to consider the move because of the continuing pressure placed upon it from central government.

He said: “We are continually given more duties and functions to perform, with less and less money to do so. We are having to find more potential savings than we would have liked because of these continuing pressures.

“The £17.5m potential shortfall next year represents our best estimate of what we need to find and still give ourselves some headroom for making choices.”

Mr Nobbs said that, while he respected the fact that some members had pledged to oppose any increases in council tax at the 2013 elections, the time had come to consider a tax rise for specific services.

He added: “Obviously children’s services comes to mind, but people will have their own priorities, and I have an open mind at this time. I believe the public may now be more willing to consider this than we give them credit for.”