Breckland councils could have to raise rates as grant due to be axed

Breckland Council. Picture: Ian Burt

Breckland Council. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

Town and parish councils in Breckland face either raising their share of council tax or axing services after an effort to save a £305,000 grant was shot down.

Breckland Council's Overview & Scrutiny Committee has decided to stand by its cabinet's decision to axe funding from the Localised Council Tax Grant.

The grant was introduced last year to ease a reduction in the tax base across the district due to the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme (LCTRS) introduced by the Government.

Grants from the £305,000 funding pot were paid out to 92 parish and town councils.

But while last year's grant was specifically intended for town and parish councils, the council is now free to incorporate into it other areas of its budget.

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That has led to officers recommending that less money should be passed on to the councils in order to address funding cuts and budget saving requirements.

Instead, the cabinet decided to axe the grant completely.

Withdrawal of Breckland grant could force parishes to raise council tax preceptsFollowing the cabinet meeting on October 29, seven councillors 'called-in' the decision to be scrutinised.

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Councillor Terry Jermy, from Thetford, was one of those who called the decision in.

Speaking at yesterday's meeting, he said Thetford Town Council would be set to lose out on £85,000 from the decision and questioned whether town and parish councils had been consulted on the move.

'We have failed to adequately assess the impact this will have on parish and town councils before making this decision. I don't think cabinet members are really aware of the implications it will have,' he said.

He added that the decision did not take into account the extra burden on town and parish councils as they take on an increasing amount of services formerly run by Breckland.

The councils now face either cutting services or raising their precept.

Michael Wassell, Breckland Council leader, said the councils were made fully aware that the grant would only be available in 2013-14.

'When we met with them last year we made it clear that this would only be for one year.

'It is not the case that we are hanging on to town and parish money as this has always been the way it was headed,' he said.

The committee voted to recommend to cabinet that the grant be removed, in line with its original decision.

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