West Norfolk Council announces plan to freeze council tax for fifth successive year

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Council tax and car parking charges look set to be frozen for the fifth successive year under budget proposals published by West Norfolk Council.

The authority’s leaders claim the plan demonstrates the success of their efforts to make savings in recent years.

But opponents say a forecast rise in bills for each of the following two years shows whoever is in charge after May’s elections will have no choice but to increase tax.

Council chiefs say that a total of £7.6 million of savings have been identified since their cost-cutting programme began six years ago.

Leader Nick Daubney said he was proud of his administration’s record and the programme of improvements, such as the regeneration of Lynn’s Tuesday Market Place, which have been completed despite the financial climate.

He said: “We have managed to identify savings by establishing a leisure trust, changing our recycling arrangements, and by utilising available technology and applying modern business practices to our day-to-day work.”

The budget also includes £150,000 for the staging of events in Lynn’s town centre in a bid to encourage more shoppers and visitors to visit.

But, although council tax and parking charges will not go up, charges in other areas, including hire of venues like Lynn’s Arts Centre and Town Hall, commercial waste collection and funeral services will rise, mostly by between one and five percent.

And the plan also forecasts a 1.5 per cent increase in council tax in both the 2016-17 and 2017-18 financial years, which would add around £3 to the average annual bill.

Labour leader John Collop said residents were already suffering the effects of cuts to services and his party would be presenting alternative proposals.

He said: “Whoever takes over (after the elections) is going to be left with a situation where we have no choice.

Of Mr Daubney, he said: “He’s realised they’re going to be in a mess.”

But Mr Daubney insisted he was confident the council could meet the continuing financial challenges while still delivering services.

Around seven per cent of the council tax paid by West Norfolk residents goes to the borough council, based on figures for the current financial year.

The largest proportion, 76 per cent, goes to Norfolk County Council, with the remainder divided between parish council and the police.

Members of the county council’s policy and resources committee will be asked to consider their tax plans at a meeting on Monday, though it is currently expected they will also impose a freeze.

The borough’s plans will be debated by two committees next week and the ruling cabinet on February 3.

The budget will finally be determined at the full council meeting on February 26.