West Norfolk Council approves £4 council tax rise plan

West Norfolk Council leader Brian Long
West Norfolk Council leader Brian Long
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West Norfolk residents are facing average council tax rises of around £65 this spring after borough council budget plans were approved.

Members voted 40 to five in favour of the authority’s financial plan, including a £4 increase in annual tax bills for average band D homes, at Lynn town hall last night.

The increase comes on top of the 4.8 per cent hike imposed by Norfolk County Council on Monday, which adds around £57 to an average bill.

Earlier this month, a rise of just under two per cent in the police’s share, adding £4.23 a year to band D bills, was also approved.

Council leader Brian Long told the meeting he would not be proposing a tax rise if there was another alternative.

But he said the possibility of raising parking charges, as happened last year, was ruled out in order to maintain footfall levels.

And he insisted the continuing uncertainty over the future funding of local government, particularly on the retention of business rates, meant they had to be cautious.

He said: “This time, this is the most prudent approach we can take.”

But Labour group leader John Collop opposed the plan, even though he said he accepted the administration had to increase tax this year.

He said a third of councils had raised tax by more than two per cent. That includes the borough, whose plans amount to a 3.4 per cent rise.

And Mr Collop claimed the Tories’ decisions not to raise tax earlier had contributed to the authority’s current financial position.

He highlighted the 2014 budget, which reported a fourth successive freeze in both council tax and car parking charges.

He added: “We’re now paying a price for those days when we didn’t increase tax by a relatively small amount that would have put us in a better financial position than what we seem to be at the moment.

“I have severe problems in the coming years that we will be able to function as a council because of things done in the past.”

But former leader Nick Daubney said his party had been forced to sort out “years of massive financial irresponsibility” when it first took power in 2003.

He said: “This council is in a good position because of those years of prudent financial management.”

Only the Labour group opposed the budget, with the three independent members all voting in favour.

Mr Long added that the borough’s charge was less than half of that imposed by Norwich City Council, which had also chosen to raise its tax.

He said: “That’s the difference between prudent financial management and allowing finances to run away.”