Budget ‘creates future confidence’, West Norfolk Council leader claims

Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk Councillors ENGANL00120130214162648
Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk Councillors ENGANL00120130214162648
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Tax, parking and other charges will go up after West Norfolk Council’s budget plans were approved at a meeting in Lynn last night.

The authority’s leader says the plan will enable the borough to look to the future with confidence.

But his opponents accused the administration of seeking to pass on rising service costs to other authorities.

The package allows the borough to increase its portion of the council tax by 0.8 per cent next year, adding around 90p to the annual bill for an average band D property.

Under new government rules, the council could have raised the tax by as much as £5, as it is among the cheapest 25 per cent of councils in the country.

However, presenting his last financial plan before he steps down in May, leader Nick Daubney said: “I went into the election with my promise we would not raise council tax over and above inflation.

“That is what I am delivering to this council tonight.”

But that wasn’t enough for Tory backbencher Patrick Rochford, who abstained after declaring he could not break his pre-election pledge not to raise council tax.

Mr Daubney also reported that the authority would still have to find more than £3 million in additional efficiency savings over the next four years, on top of the charge increases it proposed.

But he added: “I have faith in this council to deliver.”

The main opposition Labour group proposed an amendment calling for a 1.9 per cent rise, which the financial plan forecasts will be implemented in each of the following three years, to be brought forward.

Although the borough’s tax has only risen by three per cent in the past decade, they argue that the council would have up to £820,000 of additional income now if it had raised council tax in line with inflation during that period.

And they were also unhappy with the increased levels of special expenses proposed for parishes across the borough.

Charles Joyce said: “You can get any service you want as long as you’re prepared to pay for it.

“Is that really the way to go forward? Is that really taking responsibility for your own budgets by passing it on to someone else?”

But environment portfolio holder Brian Long said parishes could open work done by the borough on their behalf out to tender if they were unhappy with the charges.

And Mr Daubney claimed higher taxes was an “easy” solution.

The plan also allows for increased parking charges, which will see the minimum charge to park in Lynn and Hunstanton go up from 80p to £1 for 30 minutes.

The charges for Lynn’s main long-stay car parks will also go up 30p to £2.40 at Boal Quay and either £2.50 or £3.20 at Common Staithe Quay.

Mr Daubney said: “We’ve frozen charges for five years. This year, modest increases enable a balance to be reached in the plan and allow those using the services to contribute to the services. A user pays service is fair and equitable.”