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Norfolk County Council reveals plan for 4.8 per cent tax rise

Norfolk County Council chiefs have outlined budget plans which could see their portion of council tax rise by almost five per cent this year.

The increase, if implemented, would add more than £55 to average annual bills, even before potential rises for district and parish authorities, as well as the police, are considered.

But the administration at County Hall insists there is no alternative.

Details of the ruling Conservative group’s plans were released yesterday, barely 24 hours after its leadership dismissed a warning from UKIP councillor Paul Smyth that the council could not deliver a balanced budget as “mischievous.”

A 4.8 per cent tax increase is being proposed for the forthcoming financial year, which begins in April, with three per cent of that being ringfenced for adult social care.

Last month, ministers gave councils the power to impose a maximum three per cent tax rise for the sector.

The increase, if it is approved by members next month, would add £1.10 a week, or £57.20 a year, to council tax bills for an average band D property.

But the council says the measure will mean it can spend nearly £26 million more on adult social care in the coming financial year.

A further one-off investment of £9 million is also proposed for the county’s children’s services department, to cover an existing overspend.

And leader Cliff Jordan claimed the plans were putting the delivery of services to the public before any consideration of May’s county council elections.

He said: “At this point in any political cycle it would clearly be expedient not to raise council tax at all, and certainly not to increase it further.

“My judgement is that we must put those worries aside and do the right thing for Norfolk.

“We want to look after the most vulnerable people in Norfolk. We have a duty and responsibility to invest in services that will support their quality of life.

“This budget has been ‘right sized’ for the job and will give this council a sound footing for the future.”

The council says its plans include £44 million of cost-cutting measures, which it claims are mostly being drawn from efficiencies and financial management.

But £20 million of savings which had been due to be implemented during the 2017-18 financial year are being deferred or scrapped altogether, along with a further £8 million over the following two years.

Officials say they can no longer be realistically delivered.

Councillors are due to begin debating the proposals at a series of committee meetings which will begin next week. The final budget is due to be set on February 20.

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