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This town pays more tax because of 'public lighting', council claims

PUBLISHED: 11:30 17 May 2019 | UPDATED: 11:53 17 May 2019

Breckland Council says more is being spent on lighting in Watton. Photograph Simon Parker

Breckland Council says more is being spent on lighting in Watton. Photograph Simon Parker

Archant

Street lighting work is said to be the reason why people living in a Norfolk town are paying more council tax than others in the same district.

Watton High Street. Picture: Marc BettsWatton High Street. Picture: Marc Betts

Breckland Council charges people living in Watton more in special expenses - a mechanism used by councils to charge parts of a district more - than those in Dereham and Thetford.

At a Watton Town Council meeting earlier this year councillor Keith Gilbert, who also sits on Breckland District Council (BDC), highlighted the difference in payment.

He said that within the BDC budget, a band D property in Watton pays nearly £7 more than the equivalent in Dereham on special expenses.

He said: "This goes back to when Norfolk County Council wanted to introduce a double taxation for street lighting as people in villages who have had their lights turned off shouldn't have to pay for them.

Watton Town and Breckland district councillor Keith Gilbert. Picture: Ian BurtWatton Town and Breckland district councillor Keith Gilbert. Picture: Ian Burt

"But my argument was that people come into our towns, what are they going to do close their eyes?"

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But Breckland Council has now said that more is being spent on public lighting in the area, and residents need to foot the bill.

A Breckland Council spokesperson said: "The special expenses element of the council tax bill for BDC relates wholly to costs for the public lighting in specific areas which is why it is shown separately on the council tax bill.

"Special expenses charges for 2019/20 are based on a combination of estimated costs for 2019/20 and an adjustment for actual costs compared to estimate for 2017/18.

"During 2017/18 BDC invested significant amounts into the Watton area due to public lighting repairs, therefore this special expenses charge was higher for Watton than the other towns during that period."

But Mr Gilbert said he does not think it is down to residents to pay for the work.

He added: "The double tax was supported in places like Attleborough and Thetford but at Watton Council we opposed it.

"It's a large bill and year after year Watton has more work done but I never see any being done. They have taken the street lighting away in some areas and we have had to fight to get it back."

What are your thoughts on the street lighting in Watton? Email Marc.Betts@archant.co.uk

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