'Cheapest by a country mile' - Council hails balanced budget

Breckland Council. Picture: Ian Burt

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

A council has boasted it will keep running the "cheapest" district to live in after balancing its budget for the coming year - despite the Covid-19 pandemic's impact.

At a cabinet meeting on Monday, executive member for finance and growth Philip Cowen presented a report on the authority’s draft budget for 2021-22. 

Mr Cowen said: “This is a balanced budget. Against the background of events this past year, this is no mean achievement.” 

He added: “This budget protects frontline services from cuts. A number of services indeed will be enhanced: improved waste service, recruitment of new officers focused on fly-tipping, business support, Covid compliance support and animal welfare -  and honouring our commitments to our climate change and vulnerability programmes."

Breckland Councillor Philip Cowen. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Breckland Councillor Philip Cowen. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE - Credit: Mark Bullimore/Mark Bullimore Ph

Though residents in council tax band D will experience a rise of 5.3% (£4.95 per year), those same residents are still set to be charged the lowest average council tax of any Norfolk district. 

Councillor Bill Borrett said: “I know which Norfolk district I would like to live in and I’m very glad that it is Breckland... Breckland is not just the cheapest council tax in Norfolk, it’s the cheapest by a country mile.”

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Referring to the amount of council tax payable by those band D residents across the districts, Mr Borrett pointed out that Breckland’s charge was 33% cheaper than the next cheapest (Broadland), and 287% cheaper than that of Norwich City Council. 

Bill Borrett

Bill Borrett - Credit: Submitted

Responding to a question from Labour group leader Terry Jermy, council officer Alison Chubbock said no changes had been proposed to Breckland’s support scheme for those who cannot afford their council tax. 

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Green Party councillor Timothy Birt expressed concern about shortfalls of more than one million pounds in the outlined budgets for 2023 and 2024, but Mr Cowen said that the council’s financial position was “not unusual”. 

Mr Cowen pointed out that the council had been facing a shortfall of £1m before the pandemic, but had managed to pull back from that. 

Having been reviewed by cabinet, the draft budget report will be seen by the council’s overview and scrutiny commission in February.

The budget remains open for public consultation at www.breckland.gov.uk/consultations and feedback can be shared via consultation@breckland.gov.uk. Comments must be received before the close of 22 January.

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