North Walsham Town Council face backlash over 42 per cent tax hike
North Walsham Town Council is facing a public backlash following its decision to increase local tax by a staggering 42.6 per cent.
The precept - an annual tax charged on each property to fund the town council - has been hiked up from £46.68 to £66.55 on a Band D property.
It is expected to raise an extra £74,500 yearly income for the town council, giving it a total budget of just over £280,000.
Members remained tight-lipped on the rise, included in the council tax charge, this week.
They have allocated £25,000 of their budget for the production of a new neighbourhood plan, following public demands for more local control over development in North Walsham.
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However, as bills begin dropping through letter boxes ahead of the new financial year, the town clerk, Nick Clancy, warned councillors to be prepared for the subject to be raised at the annual town meeting in the community centre on Tuesday, April 5, at 7.30pm.
Local resident Barry Fryatt, a former parish councillor from Essex, said: 'I'm unhappy with the increase and what it's going to buy because I don't think it's appropriate expenditure for this town.
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'They have allocated £25,000 for a neighbourhood plan which sits next to the district council plan and county council plan and will probably be totally ignored. And even if they prepare it they have got to hold a referendum with the town to get it into place.
'Surely they should only be budgeting for actual known expenditure, not what you think will happen - what happens if they don't spend it next year?
'I'm going to the town meeting to ask the mayor to explain this way of doing business. I feel like they are playing fast and loose with my money.'
Mayor Brenda West declined to comment on the increase at the town council's meeting on Tuesday night, instead referring all enquiries to the town clerk who told members he had prepared a 'standard letter' explaining the town council's position.
In the letter, Mr Clancy states: 'Historically, North Walsham has had one of the lowest precepts in north Norfolk and. as a result, any increase is likely to appear big in percentage terms. Yet the overall impact on the council tax demand taxpayers receive from the district council is much smaller, in the case of 2016/17 amounting to an increase of just over four per cent.'
As well as the money for the production of a new neighbourhood plan, the town council revealed it planned to use the additional cash raised to help pay for its move to a new office (£20,000), upgraded street lighting (£10,000) and repairs to the Market Cross (£5000).
Other costs included the purchase of new maintenance equipment (£5000), an IT system upgrade (£2500), and membership of the Norfolk County Council Parish Partnership Scheme (£7000).
Mr Clancy adds: 'The Town Council is confident that it has given the appropriate consideration (to its various projects) over the course of several public meetings between September last year and Januayr this, and indeed opted not to pursue others under consideration due to the additional pressure these would have placed on household budgets. Instead there are some projects that are to be funded from council reserves.'