Council tax increase for Norfolk agreed amid discord over budget

Norfolk County Council is to ask the public what they think of an increase in their share of council

Council tax bills for Norfolk County Council will go up by nearly 4pc. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2012

People in Norfolk will pay just under 4pc more in council tax to the county council, after the Conservative-controlled authority rubber-stamped its budget for the year ahead.

Leaders at County Hall said the budget, which includes £439m to fund council services and running costs, as well as £538m for infrastructure, would be "a platform for Norfolk to flourish again".

Norfolk County Council at County Hall in Norwich

Conservative controlled Norfolk County Council has approved its budget. - Credit: Archant

But, at a full council meeting on Monday, amendments put forward by Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the independent group and independent councillor Alexandra Kemp were lost.

Conservative councillors said millions would be spent to boost the economy, including on supported housing for young adults, on children’s residential homes, for businesses, to combat flooding, for the Long Stratton bypass and on libraries.

Andrew Proctor has sent a scathing letter to the Planning Inspectorate over its decision to allow 17

Andrew Proctor has sent a scathing letter to the Planning Inspectorate over its decision to allow 170 homes to be built in Brundall. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

Leader Andrew Proctor said the budget would be "a platform for Norfolk to flourish again" and help the county recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

But the budget also includes £41m of cuts and savings and Mr Proctor said "radical change" was needed in the way the government funds councils.

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Mr Proctor said had the budget not proposed the council tax increase - a 1.99pc increase in council tax which goes to County Hall and a 2pc precept ring-fenced for adult social care - then "valuable services" would have had to be cut.

The 3.99pc figure is based on a Band D property and would see the annual amount people in such a property pay go up by £56.43 to £1,472.94.

Mr Proctor rejected Labour's proposals to use some of the £18.8m the council was setting aside as non specific COVID risk reserves on initiatives, such as reviving the council's youth service and exploring the reopening of closed children's centres.

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County Council. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Steve Morphew, leader of the opposition Labour group at Norfolk County Council. - Credit: Denise Bradley

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Labour leader Steve Morphew said: "Our amendment offers a vision of the future based on lessons we have learned from the seismic events of the past year.

"It isn’t good enough to go back to same old, same old without using the funding that could be available to tackle those problems and use the opportunities to get us through this and into a brighter future."

But Mr Proctor said that was an "unwise" approach. He said: "I think we all recognise COVID is not going away any time soon. What is being proposed undermines our approach and it is not the right approach in the circumstances."

On Labour's call to spend £2.8m to provide free school meals in the summer holidays,  John Fisher, Conservative cabinet member for children's services, said Labour loved to mention Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford's campaign, but said: "This is not a county council responsibility. I've said that before."

The lost Lib Dem amendment included proposals for people who carried out home improvements during the lockdown to be allowed to dispose of waste for free one day a year at council tips and for money to be used to install CityTrees to cut pollution in Norwich's Castle Meadow.

Steffan Aquarone, Liberal Democrat group leader at Norfolk County Council. Picture: Alex Broadway

Steffan Aquarone, Liberal Democrat group leader at Norfolk County Council. Picture: Alex Broadway - Credit: Alex Broadway

Group leader Steffan Aquarone had said: "It's a council that is financially sick and the people of Norfolk are sick and tired of bearing the brunt."

Mr Proctor said the claim the council was financially sick was "total, utter, rubbish".

The defeated Independent group amendment included the creation of a fund to restore hedges to Norfolk's rural roadsides - to reduce flooding and snowdrifts.

Also lost was an amendment by Ms Kemp, independent councillor for Clenchwarton and King's Lynn South, who wanted £10m set aside to go towards the A10 West Winch bypass.

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