Council tax increase agreed amid warning over squeeze on most vulnerable

Carl Smith, leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council.

Carl Smith, leader of the borough council, said there would be plenty of investment in coming infrastructure projects despite the Covid budget-squeeze - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY

People in Great Yarmouth will pay an average of £77.85 more in council tax this year - though for some villagers the figure will be much higher.

At a full meeting of Great Yarmouth Borough Council on Tuesday, the budget was approved by a majority of seven - with 15 opposition councillors abstaining.

Leader Carl Smith said the budget had been put together under the "constraints" of Covid, but there was still plenty of manoeuvre for project investment, town centre regeneration, business recovery and help for the community's most vulnerable.

He said more than £44m had been paid in business grants since March last year, £1.3m to residents in need of council tax support and £150,000 in self-isolation payments. A one-off Covid support grant of £746,000 was also gifted to the borough by central government in December.

Mr Smith then explained council tax for the borough's element will see a £5 hike for a band D property and £3.33 for a band A, noting this was "one of the lowest increases in Norfolk".

Groundbreaking Marina Centre Great Yarmouth

Mr Smith said new investment projects for the town, like the £26m Marina Centre, would be of great benefit to the community as it begins its Covid fight-back - Credit: GYBC

But the increase comes in addition to parish council tax increases, a 3.99pc increase in Norfolk County Council's tax precept and a 5.86pc increase in the Police and Crime Commissioner's precept. This brings the total average tax bill for each band D household to £1,940.40 in 2021/22, up from £1,862.55 the year before.

Labour councillors, however, said not enough was being done to combat foodbank reliance or those who live in untenable housing, claiming "10 years of Tory austerity" had weakened Great Yarmouth's economy.

Hemsby village sign.Picture: James Bass

The parish council precept rise for Hemsby is nearly 56pc this year - Credit: James Bass

Labour leader Trevor Wainwright called the tax increase a "nail in the coffin" for those families, and said some of the parish precept increases "took getting used to".

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For example, in Hemsby, the parish precept has increased by nearly 56pc (£21.10) on the previous year and in Ormesby St Michael, 43.68pc (£8.45).

He said: "These increases might not mean much to our twin-hatted Conservative councillors on allowances in excess of £40,000 plus expenses, but it means a lot to normal people who've already taken a huge financial hit."

Parish tax increase

The rise in council tax precepts for next year across Great Yarmouth's parishes - Credit: GYBC

Labour's Mike Smith-Clare and UKIP's Carrie Talbot agreed, saying council tax increases along with a reduction in seasonal work will have an accumulative effect on households living in poverty.

Mike Smith-Clare, borough councillor for Great Yarmouth's Central and Northgate ward. Photo: Archant

Mike Smith-Clare said he was sick of hearing from Tory councillors that everything was "smelling of roses" - Credit: Archant

Conservative councillor Paul Wells said he did not recognise the "Victorian hellscape" and "Tory-ravaging dystopia" presented by opposition councillors' "fantastic rhetoric".

"We have one choice on the table," he said, "and that's the Conservative one."