March 12 2014 Latest news:
Saturday, February 9, 2013
A council tax hike is on the cards for people in Norwich, with city leaders saying the increase is needed to protect services.
Councillors are likely to rubber-stamp a 1.95pc increase in the city council’s share of the council tax - and a further £2.5m worth of savings - when they meet next week.
That would mean, from April, somebody living in a Band D property would have to pay £230.27 into City Hall’s coffers, an increase of £4.40 on the current level.
That comes on top of the £3.84 extra which people will have to pay to Norfolk police, after the new police and crime commissioner decided to increase the share which goes to the force by 1.965pc.
Norfolk County Council has announced there will be no increase in its share of the tax, while people in Norwich who live in the Broadland District Council have also been spared an increase, with councillors set to freeze their portion.
For the third year in a row, the government had offered authorities a grant in return for not increasing council tax. Leaders at City Hall took the grant in the last two years, but say they cannot afford to do so again.
A report which will come before members of the controlling Labour cabinet next week states: “The value of the grant offered is much less than the two previous freeze grants and therefore the resulting shortfall will add considerably to already significant budget pressures.”
The council says, in consultation carried out between September and December last year, 57.4pc of people supported a council tax hike, with “the most popular” use for it to protect key council services.
Alan Waters, deputy leader of the council, said: “Looking at the figures, I think about 40pc of councils are putting up the council tax.
“We are doing it because we have got to find ways to mitigate for the cuts which have been imposed on us by the government, so we can continue to protect services.
“Assuming we were allowed to set a similar level for the next four years, that would bring in about £1m, which can make a big difference to us being able to maintain services.”
Mr Waters added the council had also decided to protect vulnerable people in the city from being hit in the pocket by opting for a ‘no cuts’ approach to changes to the way council tax benefit is paid.
That means people in receipt of council tax benefit will see no reduction in what they receive in 2013-14 and the council will cover the financial shortfall by other means.
But James Wright, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: “My view is, in the current climate, we should not be looking at a council tax rise. We should be taking the grant for freezing the tax and looking at extra savings. “When you consider the council has just agreed to increase the allowances for councillors, it seems even more extraordinary.”
However, Claire Stephenson, leader of the opposition Green group, said: “The council should have increased the council tax last year and I think it was a mistake that they did not, because that would meant they could have saved vital services.
“I think they have now realised that was a mistake and are putting it up as much as this government will allow without triggering a referendum.”
The city council’s cabinet are being recommended to accept the freeze when it meets on Wednesday, although the final decision will rest with the full council.
Council tax bills for people who live in Norwich are split three ways. The bulk of the money goes to Norfolk County Council, with the rest going to the city council and Norfolk police.
In areas outside Norwich, a slice goes to the relevant district council (such as Broadland or South Norfolk), while parish councils also set precepts.
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