Breckland residents set to pay more council tax after budget meeting

Breckland Council. Picture: Ian Burt

Breckland Council. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

Council tax bills in Breckland are set to rise following a district council decision to shore up its reserves and reduce its reliance on the New Homes Bonus.

Breckland Councillor Philip Cowen. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Breckland Councillor Philip Cowen. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE - Credit: Mark Bullimore/Mark Bullimore Photography 2017

At a budget and council tax setting meeting in Dereham today (Thursday, February 22) the Tory-run authority voted to lift its 2018/19 precept to £83.88 for a Band D property - a rise of £4.95 on the current year.

Philip Cowen, the council's executive member for finance, praised the budget, saying: 'By reducing our reliance on the New Homes Bonus we will be able to push more money into our reserves. It is the community's reserves, because communities are what make Breckland a fantastic place to live and work.'

Mr Cowen said the increase would mean the council could invest more in the district's market towns such as Thetford, Watton and Swaffham. He said: 'We want to make our market towns thrive because they are under threat and they are facing challenges. Doing more for our market towns and communities is at the heart of what this budget sets out to achieve.'

Mr Cowen said the council would be able to invest £1.7m into supporting communities across Breckland in 2018/19 followed by a further £1.4m in 2019/20.

The authority claims it has the lowest district council precept in the country, despite the rise.

Terry Jermy, the council's Labour group leader, proposed two amendments which would have seen £5,000 allocated to each market town to boost tourism information services, and the budget to upgrade street lighting rise from £90,000 to £180,000.

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He said jobs and housing were the group's two big priorities.

But the amendments were not agreed to in a vote.

Also on the agenda was a report on a breach of council standards by Ukip councillor Mark Taylor, however, this was not discussed at the meeting. Mark Taylor, who represents Thetford Priory ward, was found to have called a Norfolk County Council worker an 'idiot' and made offensive remarks to her on February 16, 2016.

The woman complained about the comments which she said were 'deplorable and derogatory'.

After an inquiry, Mr Taylor was ordered to issue an apology.

But a report for the budget meeting said: 'To date no such apology has been received and more than five months have elapsed since the decision notice was issued.'