December 11 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, January 10, 2013
Householders will be asked to contribute the same as last year towards Harleston’s facilities and services, after the town council agreed to a 0pc increase in its council tax precept.
However, the way in which Redenhall with Harleston Town Council reached its decision has come under fire from one of its members who claims there was too little debate and the tax could have been reduced.
Councillors approved (by seven votes to one) a budget on Wednesday which means a householder in a band D property will have to pay almost £190 in 2013/14 towards facilities and services run by the town council. (This will be added to charges levied later by South Norfolk Council, Norfolk County Council and the police to make up the final council tax bill).
Vice-chairman Barbara Lamoureux said: “We felt the precept didn’t need to be increased and, in the current economic climate, everbody is struggling. But we also didn’t want to decrease it because we don’t know what’s happening next year so we need to make sure we’ve got the funds available. It’s about being prudent.”
Councillor Adrian Brownsea said he voted against the decision because there was no opportunity for detailed debate and he wanted the option of reducing the tax to be considered.
“There was no discussion at council – the whole meeting was less than 45 minutes. The council just rubber-stamped the budget without any open examination of it and I’m dismayed by that approach to a subject of such importance to our residents.”
He added: “Last year, we had the highest precept in South Norfolk, so I believe we should at least have had a serious look at finding ways to cut council tax bills this year.”
He said the contingency fund of £15,000 in the budget was not necessary because there was enough money in reserves to cover unexpected expenses, and a number of areas of expenditure could be reduced. For example, the gym was subsidised by the people of Harleston but used largely be people outside the town, residents were paying more for the free parking because local businesses were not paying their share, and the town had employed a street cleaner to do a job which residents had already paid South Norfolk Council to do.
The way council tax is calculated – the “tax base” – has been changed by the government, so this year’s figure is made up of £275,006 in precept plus a one-off payment of £50,837 from South Norfolk Council (last year’s precept was £325,844). However, the figure paid by individual householders has not changed.
Town clerk Margot Harbour said: “Fortunately, South Norfolk Council have agreed to cover the shortfall for the forthcoming financial year. But we can expect to have to consider reducing expenditure or increasing the precept in the following financial year. This is not something that is unique to Harleston; it will be an issue faced by many town and parish councils across the country.”