Council tax rise on cards as Norfolk County Council sets its budget

Andrew Proctor, Conservative leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Neil Perry

Andrew Proctor, Conservative leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Neil Perry - Credit: Archant

Norfolk County Council will set its muiti-million pound budget today, which is likely to add almost 3pc more to people's council tax bills.

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County Council. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County Council. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

The Conservative-controlled council will set its revenue budget for the next 12 months at £409.3m, which includes £31.1m of savings - and a 2.99pc council tax increase.

The council tax increase will add just under £40 to the annual council tax bill for a Band D property. That will come on top of the increase of about 10pc in the share which goes to Norfolk police and any increases agreed by district, borough, city, town and parish councils.

Council leader Andrew Proctor said the council had little choice but to turn to tax increases, given the lack of long-term funding from central government.

He said: 'The part of government which has borne the biggest brunt of national spending reductions has been local government and we have got to respond to that.'

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He said, as a Conservative who believed in low tax, that was not an easy decision, but said: 'We are being forced down this road because of the government move towards local taxation.'

Mr Proctor said one-off funding from the government were useful, but that longer-term solutions were needed, which he has written to the government and MPs to seek.

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But he said: 'It's not all doom and gloom. We still spend something like £1bn and we've invested in the likes of the Broadland Northway and the Third River Crossing at Great Yarmouth. We're committed to the Western Link, we're investing in new SEND schools, housing with care and our own housing company should soon be building homes.'

However, with a £70m funding gap still to be closed by 2022, he acknowledged there would need to be 'tough decisions' in future years. He said: 'One thing I want to try to make sure people get, is that we need to live within our means.'

But Steve Morphew, leader of the opposition Labour group, said: 'This is as dismal and bleak budget as I have ever encountered.

'Norfolk Tories have been in denial as the dark clouds have been gathering. Now even they say government funding cuts are beyond what we can manage and sticking plasters won't do.

'It's their government's fault but they are culpable for not standing up for Norfolk.'

Care cost changes

One of the most contentious parts of the budget is a proposal which will change how much disabled people pay for social care.

The change would mean about 1,000 people will have to pay more for care and 1,400 people will pay for care for the first time.

Conservatives say the move brings the council in line with national policy and other authorities.

But the Liberal Democrats and Labour are tabling budget amendments to stop the changes.

Brian Watkins, Liberal Democrat councillor for Eaton, said it was a 'punitive and uncaring decision' by the controlling party.

He said: 'There are better ways to make financial savings without inflicting pain and suffering on to those who can least afford it.'

The Lib Dems are also proposing a £500,000 public transport innovation fund to encourage organisations to come up with new ways to improve public transport in the rural areas.

Deputy leader Steffan Aquarone said: 'The Tories consider Norfolk a car county but this totally misses the point. Aside from the fact that 70,000 households in Norfolk don't own a car, an innovative public transport system could transform Norfolk's economy for everyone – workers, car owners, and tourists alike. It just needs a bit of creativity, an appetite for innovation, and a small amount of money to pilot new ideas.'

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