Broadland set to freeze council tax

Families living in Broadland look set to see their council tax frozen this year, but council bosses have warned there could be a 'significant' hike in the future.

Broadland District Council is poised to dip into its reserves to stop council tax going up, but leaders warn a drop in how much the authority gets from the government means it cannot peg back a tax rise forever.

The council will meet tomorrow to discuss the budget proposals and council tax for 2011/12, but if the recommendation from officers is agreed it will mean families will see a freeze in their council tax.

But leader Simon Woodbridge warned tough times could be ahead and said: 'Our grant from the government is down by �1.7m over the next two years and further reductions are likely. It means we have some tricky decisions to make over time, but our strategy is twofold – to protect our council taxpayers as much as we possibly can during the recession and to continue to provide excellent services to our residents.

'By freezing our part of the council tax next year we hope we can help individuals and families, who will already be hard-pressed financially.'

The report to tomorrow's cabinet, by Broadland's head of finance John Duvall, makes clear tough decisions will have to be made in subsequent years to balance the books.

Mr Duvall said, while �300,000 from reserves can be used to finance the immediate shortfall, Broadland's share of the council tax may have to rise significantly in the future.

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He said that over five years �6m could have to be drawn from reserves, which would take them below the minimum reserves level of �1m.

However Mr Woodbridge said he remained confident the authority would not end up in that situation.

The report also says a continued search for backroom economies will be necessary and that, while no redundancies are planned in the short term, they cannot be ruled out.

James Joyce, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said he supported the approach, but added: 'It is extremely fortuitous that over the past few years the council has not even spent the money they had planned to spend.'