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Downham Market Town Council votes to increase tax precept by 10%

Downham residents are set to face a 10% tax increase after councillors opted for their highest hike option in a bid to ensure they have money left for unexpected costs.

The town council unanimously voted to increase its precept at its full meeting on Tuesday evening.

Cllr Anna Incorvaia delivered what she described as a “relatively long explanation” as to why the authority should ask residents to pay more.

Downham Town Council has voted to increase its council tax precept by 10%
Downham Town Council has voted to increase its council tax precept by 10%

When she concluded, four options were presented to members – increases of 3%, 5%, 7% or 10%.

After hearing opinions from around the table, the council ratified the latter hike, which will be imposed in its 2024/25 budget in the coming months.

Cllr Incorvaia said that a 10% increase would increase the yearly amount due from each household in the Downham household by £13.18.

A 3% rise would have resulted in an extra £3.07 being due, with 5% bringing in £5.96 per household and 7% garnering £8.85.

The council agreed that it had to select the largest option in order to make sure it has enough reserves available in the coming years to fund unexpected projects, and cited repairs made to the town hall roof last year as an example.

“I can’t see into the future – no one can – but I am identifying this as a risk based on the evidence we have at this time,” Cllr Incorvaia said.

Cllr David Sharman said that he would “go for something like 5% on this to give us a little bit of a buffer”.

“I don’t think you should go lower, as all we are doing is saving up a trouble in the future,” he added.

Cllr Valerie Leivers made reference to a number of councils which have gone bankrupt across the country in recent times, and said: “We can’t allow ourselves to go so low.

“That is my belief – we have to go for 7%, or even 10%.”

Cllr Jacqueline Westrop added: “We are going to need quite a significant amount in hand. We should go for 10%, basically.

“We need some space to deliver projects in this town.”

Cllr Michael Lane also recommended a 10% increase, while Cllr Daniel Jordan said: “We can’t afford to leave ourselves short on the reserves.”

Councillors were told that a 10% precept increase means they can expect to have £315,753 left in their reserves.

A 3% increase, on the other hand, would have left them with £259,822.62.

There is currently no cap on how much town and parish councils can increase their precepts by, as opposed to county and borough councils, which have set limits.

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