Rise in Thetford and Brandon council tax precepts

Both Thetford and Brandon town councils have raised their precepts for the coming financial year, but have assured voters they will see results for their money.

Thetford town council agreed to raise its precept by 4pc, or �2.50 per household per year, which will raise �20,000 to pay for the town's diamond jubilee celebrations in June.

Brandon has raised its by 41.7pc, to �282,231, to help pay for the takeover of Brandon Country Park, changes to street lighting, and a future extension to the cemetery.

While both councils have insisted the increase is necessary, in Thetford it comes at a time when the council is expected to overspend by �57,000 in the current financial year, although this could fall by March.

Speaking after a recent town council meeting, Saxon ward councillor Terry Jermy, who disagreed with the precept increase, said this was partly due to increased overtime payments to staff and an increase in outsourcing of some services.

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'This is the largest amount I can recall but we do normally go over,' he said. 'Part of that is because the usage of the Guildhall has gone up and one of the things we've pushed for is a full-time manager for the Guildhall and Carnegie which will improve the service and reduce the cost.

'We do make a lot of money and we don't spend it well, in my opinion, and I would push for us to review that.'

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Mr Jermy went on to say there would be a number of staff changes in the next few weeks and months which could help save money.

He added: 'There are going to be a lot of changes but ultimately it's a good-news story because we're recruiting new members of staff and things are getting better.

'I really do think there's a lot going on with improving services but I think there's a long way to go. I don't think we should be allowing the �20,000 increase – people are paying enough at the moment and we should have taken it from the reserve.'

The money raised from the precept increase will be spent on jubilee celebrations which will include a free concert on Melford Common, a street party on the market place and flags and bunting throughout the town.

The town has also been registered as an official beacon which will be lit on the Castle Hill together with fireworks.

Meanwhile, Brandon town clerk, Christine Mason, said the rise in Brandon equated to an additional �16 per year per household.

She said �35,000 was budgeted in the precept for the running of the country park, which, subject to paperwork, Suffolk County Council is expected to transfer as an ongoing concern; �22,000 for the lighting; and �4,000 towards the purchase of land on Manor Road which could be used to extend the cemetery.

Mrs Mason said the council expected to recoup the cost of the lighting in reduced energy bills, while money was put into the cemetery 'kitty' every year.

'We have no choice because we're taking on all these extra costs, and remember it's spread between all the people of Brandon,' she said.

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