New car parking charges are to come into force at one of Norfolk's biggest country parks as part of a council's efforts to balance the books and make nearly £1m in savings.

The changes at Holt Country Park will see visitors having to pay an extra 20p for each stay.

It is part of a raft of measures North Norfolk District Council is introducing as part of its budget for the year, which also includes a £131,000 cut to funding for community projects.

The authority's budget was approved amid claims the authority went into "panic mode" to find a raft of savings needed as it attempts to tackle a growing deficit which could reach nearly £2m next year.

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Eastern Daily Press: Lucy Shires, cabinet member for finance, estates and property servicesLucy Shires, cabinet member for finance, estates and property services (Image: Newsquest)

At a meeting this week, Lucy Shires, cabinet member for finance, said the priority for the 2024/2025 budget has been to "maintain the services that our residents rely on" while ensuring the council is being "fiscally responsible" during what are very challenging times for many local councils.

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While £975,000 in savings have had to be found, £3m in capital investments in the district have been announced, which will be used for a range of projects such as green initiatives and funding for sea defences.

Council tax is to rise in the district, increasing by £4.95 for Band D properties.

Eastern Daily Press: Christopher Cushing, leader of the Conservative group at North Norfolk District CouncilChristopher Cushing, leader of the Conservative group at North Norfolk District Council (Image: Supplied)

Christoper Cushing, leader of the Conservative opposition group, attacked the budget decisions, arguing there is "no viable strategy" to address a predicted shortfall in finances for future years and said it was a "last-minute scramble" to balance the books.

But this was rebuked by Ms Shires, calling these comments "political mudslinging" and said that they had worked hard to deliver the best for residents while blaming years of government cuts for contributing to the financial challenges faced.

The cuts to the Sustainable Communities Fund caused a rift among members with the Conservative opposition calling on the Liberal Democrat-led council to reinstate the pot of money, which provided small grants to local groups and businesses.

But the amendment was voted against, with council leaders saying that it was a regrettable but necessary decision and that if there is a windfall in funds it could be reinstated.

Members voted to approve the budget proposals despite Conservative opposition councillors voting against the capital bid programme and the rise in council tax.

KEY BUDGET TAKEAWAYS

  • Council tax is to rise by £4.95 for Band D properties
  • NNDC is making £975,000 in savings, which includes cutting the Sustainable Communities Fund grants. An extra £250,000 of savings is needed, which is yet to be identified
  • Increased charges of 20p at Holt Country Park car park. Meadow Car Park in Cromer is also to be extended to increase revenue from visitors
  • The council will hold a minimum of £2.1m in its reserves
  • There is a predicted deficit for future years. In 2025/2026, this is estimated to be £1.841m, rising to £3.32m by 2027/2028
  • The council has announced £3m for capital investment in the district, which will be split between a number of projects including 'green future' initiatives, sea defences and investments in the local economy and infrastructure