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West Norfolk Council budget plans approved

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GV of the Borough Council of King's Lynn & West Norfolk, King's Court Hq, Chapel Street King's Lynn. (7404107)
GV of the Borough Council of King's Lynn & West Norfolk, King's Court Hq, Chapel Street King's Lynn. (7404107)

Budget proposals which will add an extra £4.50 to average tax bills have been backed by West Norfolk councillors.

Members voted 37 to seven, with one abstention, to approve the measures at a meeting in Lynn on Thursday night.

The decision means that residents are likely to face a total council tax increase of around £70 for a typical band D home, when the shares of the charge for bodies including the county council and the police and crime commissioner are taken into account.

Leader Brian Long said he was proud of the authority’s record of below inflation tax increases during his 16 years as a councillor.

He said: “This council has, since I was elected, been prudent in its budget setting and been mindful that increasing taxation should be a last resort.”

He told members that the authority would be the lowest taxing council in England were it not for the levies paid to the borough’s internal drainage boards, which it is now funding instead of central government.

And he said the rise equated to less than nine pence a week, adding: “We’ll be continuing to deliver a path of new homes to rent and buy, social housing for our most vulnerable, cleaning the streets and bins, supporting festivals, helping keep the public safe and making West Norfolk a great place to work and visit.”

But, even though his group supported the tax rise, independent leader Jim Moriarty said the administration appeared to be waiting for someone to save it.

He said: “I cannot find a real financial plan unless you count putting your fingers in your ears, your hands over your eyes and muttering don’t panic.”

And Labour’s Charles Joyce accused the Conservatives of “reversing the role of Robin Hood” in their proposals.

He criticised Mr Long for failing to support an amendment seeking funding for the West Lynn ferry and a relief road for West Winch when it was put to the county council’s budget meeting earlier this month.

And he highlighted the problems relating to the King’s Lynn Innovation Centre as he declared he had “no faith” in the plans.

He said: “We know where loans were paid out that have not been paid back. How can that possibly be? Yet the administration says its objectives have been achieved because they have a building.

“That building doesn’t pay the rent and that building is not what residents pay their council tax for.

“If tax has to go up, residents want to see their services maintained or improved. But this budget doesn’t actually do it.”

Concerns were also raised on both sides of the chamber about the continuing lack of clarity on plans for councils such as West Norfolk to keep more of the business rates they collect when the current system of central government grants ends in 2021.

But Mr Long insisted the measures gave the council a “sound platform” for the future.

Charges for many services, including car parking, have been frozen in the budget.

But Labour’s Gary Howman questioned the increase of around 10 per cent which is being imposed on hiring rooms in Lynn town hall for meetings and events, including weddings.

He said: “It’s interesting in election year there’s very little increase in fees and charges. But there are a few massive above inflation hikes.

“It’s funny those things are tucked away on page 151. Who has time to go through all that?”

However, Mr Long defended the increase by suggesting the price of hiring the historic building may have been too low.

He said: “So many people say to me this venue is a superb venue that is cheap and one thing that it shouldn’t be is cheap.

“It should reflect good value to the hirer and to the council.”

He added that parking charges had not been scheduled to rise this year to which Mr Howman quipped: “Amazing.”

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