Poll: Mayors of Cromer and North Walsham defend large hike in towns’ share of council tax. What do you think?
07:30 13 February 2014
Residents in Cromer and North Walsham are facing a steep hike in the town part of their council tax bills.
Cromer Town Council has increased its precept by 31pc and North Walsham by almost 27pc.
The rises mean that from April an average Band D council tax payer in Cromer will pay an extra £17.97 towards the town council’s part of their bill, while North Walsham householders will have to find £9.69 more.
The towns’ mayors have defended the rises, listing important local projects which need funding, but the increases have been condemned by low-tax pressure group The Taxpayers’ Alliance.
North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) is freezing its share of the council tax for the third year running.
David Pritchard, mayor of Cromer, said the main reason for their increase was that they were negotiating with NNDC over taking on responsibility for North Lodge Park and had set aside £13,000 in case it was agreed.
“At the time of our precept submission to NNDC, we had not been made aware of the £150,000 ‘dowry’ that NNDC offered with North Lodge Park but it still has to be remembered that the dowry is to cover a projected five year period,” he added.
Any increase in Cromer’s precept during the current economic difficulties was unfortunate and had not been taken lightly.
North Walsham mayor Jacqueline Belson, said their increase would have been even greater if they had not accepted a grant from NNDC, on offer to parish and town councils.
“The increases made by North Walsham Town Council were to meet highway and town centre improvements and the possible continuation of CCTV,” she added.
Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: “Council tax hikes add to the burden on families struggling with rising prices and stagnant wages.
“All local authorities, parish councils included, should freeze or even cut council tax rather than looking to empty people’s wallets further.
“Just because parish councils have smaller budgets than other areas of local government does not mean they should not face the same scrutiny when seeking to increase the tax burden on local residents”
Cromer accepted NNDC’s grant in 2013-2014 but has declined it for the coming financial year. The grant was introduced by government last year to counteract a loss of council tax revenue caused by complex changes to benefit rules.
But some parish councils fear it could be withdrawn next year, coupled with a possible cap on the percentage increase they can impose. They have therefore declined the grant as, if the “double whammy” came into effect, it would probably mean having to hold a referendum to agree an increase just to maintain services at current levels.
Council tax bills will drop through north Norfolk householders’ letterboxes in the first two weeks of March.