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Bigger council tax hikes could lie ahead for Norfolk, if government relaxes cap on rises

Norfolk County Council's finance officer has said he would recommend larger council tax increases in the future, if the government allows it. Picture: Denise Bradley

Norfolk County Council's finance officer has said he would recommend larger council tax increases in the future, if the government allows it. Picture: Denise Bradley

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The uncertain state of funding for Norfolk County Council has prompted its finance director to say he would be likely to advise bigger council tax hikes in future - if the government allows it.

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

The council is next month due to discuss a budget which recommends a 2.99pc increase in its share of the council tax.

While there would be no increase in the separate adult social care precept, those in a band D property would pay £1,362.74 compared to £1,322.73.

But officers said bigger hikes could be needed ahead as the council battles to plug a budget gap which rises to £70m by 2022.

Finance director Simon George said his biggest worry in the medium term was pressure on the budget because of spending on school places for children with high special educational needs.

Steve Morphew, leader of the opposition Labour group at County Hall. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYSteve Morphew, leader of the opposition Labour group at County Hall. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The number of such places has increased by more than 1,100 since 2015/16 and costs the council about £80m a year. Government funding has not kept pace, leaving the council with a forecast £13.6m deficit this year.

Mr George said unless the government addresses it, then “significant savings” will be needed in the years ahead.

He said, if the government lifted a threshold on how much council tax can rise without a referendum (currently triggered at a 3pc rise) he would be likely to recommend bigger increases in future.

Mr George told the council’s policy and resources committee: “Because it’s my role to not only look at this year, but future years, I want to lay my cards on the table and say if we were able to put up council tax above the current limit then I would recommend that.”

Mr George said a one percent increase would bring in about £4m more each year.

Council leader Andrew Proctor, said representations have been made to the government over better funding. He said he noted Mr George’s comments, although the final say on council tax rises always rests with councillors.

During the budget debate, Labour leader Steve Morphew questioned a planning assumption that the council would be £25.8m better off through anticipated future funding changes by the government.

Mr Morphew said that figure had been “made up”, so the budget gap was wider than £70m. But Mr George said that figure was based on indications following conversations between the council and the government.

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