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Budget will help Norfolk 'flourish again', County Council leader insists

Average council tax payers in West Norfolk can expect a hike of around £75 in their annual bills this spring after county councillors approved budget plans today.

Proposals to raise Norfolk County Council’s share of the charge by nearly four per cent in 2021-22 were approved in a meeting this afternoon.

The measure equates to around £56 extra on bills for people living in a typical band D property.

Norfolk County Council's headquarters, where calls for DIY waste recycling charges to be scrapped are set to be debated next week (40342399)
Norfolk County Council's headquarters, where calls for DIY waste recycling charges to be scrapped are set to be debated next week (40342399)

And, with an increase of nearly £15 in the police precept already approved and district authorities set to finalise their budgets later this week, residents can expect to pay out nearly £75 extra before their parish council precepts are accounted for.

County council leader Andrew Proctor claimed the authority’s measures would provide a platform for Norfolk both to recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and “flourish again.”

The council could have chosen to raise its portion of tax bills by up to five per cent.

Andrew Proctor. (42328060)
Andrew Proctor. (42328060)

But Andrew Jamieson, its cabinet member for finance, said “We are protecting vital services, investing to tackle flooding, and making as much provision as possible for potential shocks from Covid - all without needing to propose the full five per cent Council Tax increase.

“We will continue to advocate strongly for Norfolk and press Government for our fair share of funding and to bring forward long needed reforms.”

But opposition members claimed the budget did not address the real needs of Norfolk’s residents.

Labour’s Mike Smith-Clare accused the Conservative administration of having “permanently fixed blinkers” on.

Steve Morphew. (37786906)
Steve Morphew. (37786906)

And his group leader, Steve Morphew, said the pandemic had shone a light on a range of problems which had existed long before coronavirus arrived.

He said the budget lacked leadership, adding: “It’s not good enough to go back to the same old same old.”

A series of opposition amendments were voted down during the debate before the budget was finally passed by 54 votes to 22.

The approved budget allows for a 3.99 per cent increase in council tax, with two per cent being ringfenced for adult social care and the remainder going to other services.

The measures also include the provision of a near £19 million reserve for further costs relating to the pandemic, plus an additional £46 million of investment in services. Local members will also have their own funds for projects in their divisions increased from £6,000 a year to £10,000.

Both the West Norfolk and Breckland Councils, which are Conservative controlled, are proposing to increase their share of council tax bills when they set their own budgets this Thursday.

However, North Norfolk District Council, which is run by the Liberal Democrats, is planning to freeze its share of the charge. Members there are due to vote on its budget proposals on Wednesday evening.

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