West Norfolk Council freezes council tax for fourth successive year

Lynn News Web Site Fillers
Lynn News Web Site Fillers

Council tax and parking charges have been frozen for the fourth successive year after West Norfolk councillors approved the authority’s financial plan.

And a programme of parking promotions in the area is set to grow after additional money was allocated to the borough council’s Just The Ticket initiative.

Labour and UKIP members abstained in the budget vote as members backed the ruling Conservative adminstration’s plans by 41 to nil during Thursday night’s full council meeting.

That vote came after a Labour amendment proposing to spend £100,000, which the Tories had earmarked for additional parking offers, on a new pest control service was rejected by 39 votes to 10.

Group leader John Collop said he supported the continuation of the parking promotions, but argued that the money available for them should be frozen at the current £100,000, rather than being doubled under the Tory proposals, and the extra money should be spent elsewhere until the benefit of the offers became clearer.

He said the pest control service, which would be free and deal with rats and mice, would be fully funded by the cash proposed, and limits would be put in place on the number of times individual residents could call on the service.

“It’s something we’re going to give back to the people,” he said. His predecessor as Labour leader, Jim Moriarty, claimed the administration had “no idea” how successful the parking promotions were or when they should be staged in order to achieve the greatest impact.

He said: “What is being proposed is a reallocation of spending to an area of known service need.”

But the Tories branded the plan as “half-baked” and claimed re-introducing a pest control service, which they scrapped in 2011, would require an annual two per cent rise in council tax, and a possible 30p rise in parking charges.

Leader Nick Daubney said their plan to double the amount spent on parking offers to £200,000 came after lengthy discussions with business leaders.

He said: “One of the things that came back was these promotions work but they need to be more predictable.

“The whole point of these promotions is to increase footfall and maintain the vibrancy of our town centres.”

Labour also voiced concerns about provision for a possible two per cent rise in council tax in 2016 and a forecast £2 million drop in the council’s general fund balances at the same point.

Mr Collop argued that the figures may suggest problems were being left for future councillors and ratepayers to pay for.

But Mr Daubney claimed his administration had presented a sensible plan and were running one of the most efficient councils in the country.

He said council tax in the borough had increased by only three per cent in nine years, compared to an average district council rise of 17 per cent.

He added: “For just over £2 a week we collect refuse, we clean the streets, we provide arts and culture and support first-class sports facilities. Or you can phone Tesco and get your shopping delivered for a fiver. We offer amazing value.”