'You don’t know what it’s like' - Councillor’s anger over tax rise

Councillor Kay Gray addresses members of Dereham Town Council's finance committee on Zoom. 

"You don't know what its like" - Councillor Kay Gray speaking to members of Dereham Town Council's finance committee on Zoom. - Credit: Dereham Town Council Youtube channel

A  councillor accused fellow members of being out of touch with residents in a heated exchange over plans to raise the town’s portion of council tax.

At a meeting of Dereham Town Council’s finance committee on Tuesday, members debated at what level to set the parish’s annual tax precept. 

The meeting’s agenda notes explained that a rise of less than 4% would risk cuts to council services or projects, at least in the long-term. 

For Band D properties, a rise of 4% is an increase of 12.6p per week. 

While most councillors were in favour of at least a 3% rise, councillor Alan Grey said he favoured no rise at all.

“I don’t think we can look at the people of this town and put money up,” said Mr Grey.

Alan and Kay Grey are setting up shop in Dereham. Picture: Nick Butcher

Alan and Kay Gray, pictured in 2017. - Credit: Nick Butcher

Kay Grey, who was sitting next to her husband Alan, later said: “I can’t vote because I’m not on this committee, but I just want to put this question out to all you councillors and also the town clerk: how many of you are furloughed or have already been furloughed this year? How many of you?”

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After committee chair Hilary Bushell replied that probably none of them were, Mrs Grey said that because the couple had lost their business in the pandemic, they were “just managing” and their savings were down “a hell of a lot".

“You’re not furloughed. You don’t know what it’s like, and I’m going now because I really think you ought to sit and think about the residents that you are representing, as a councillor,” she said, before walking away from the camera’s view for the rest of the meeting.

Hilary Bushell, mayor of Dereham, has voiced concerns over the impact of 255 new homes in Dereham. P

Finance committee chair Hilary Bushell. - Credit: Archant

Most councillors later voted to raise the precept by 3.5% - a rise of 11p per week for Band D properties.

The recommendation will be voted on by full council next week.

Speaking on Wednesday, Ms Bushell said the council would be failing in its duty to Dereham if it did not seek to maintain services. 

“We appreciate that everybody has been hit, one way or another - financially as well as in every other aspect… All opinions were listened to and aired, and it was voted for completely democratically," she said.

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