Councils should 'think very hard' before increasing council tax
- Credit: Danielle Booden and Archant
Two Norfolk Conservative MPs have echoed the call by Labour leader Keir Starmer for local authorities to "think very hard" before putting up council tax this year.
On Sunday, Mr Starmer said “absurd” council tax rises should be axed, to help ease the pressure on family budgets.
Instead, he said the government should provide extra funding to councils.
North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker agreed that councils should “think very hard” about putting up council tax this year, as a well-run council should have reserves.
“Yes, I do agree that local councils need to think very hard about this year because of the situation people find themselves in,” Mr Baker said.
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“Local councils, if they have run themselves well, they should have reserves to cover difficult times."
Mr Baker accused the Liberal Democrat-run North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) of wasting "vast amounts of money" on a restructuring programme.
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He said: “You look back in hindsight at a colossal amount of money wasted. If that money had not been spent it could have been used to alleviate an increase in council tax.”
This was denied by NNDC, who said the restructuring would be cost-neutral, accusing Mr Baker of "party political grandstanding".
Eric Seward, deputy leader for NNDC, said the council was using their reserves for multiple schemes, including a new leisure facility in Sheringham.
“In order to maintain services, Government expected local councils in the Local Government Settlement announced before Christmas, to raise council tax as part of this settlement," he said.
"NNDC, in order to do this, is proposing to raise its council tax by £4.95 for the next financial year for Band D council taxpayers.
"That is less than Conservative-run Norfolk County Council, and less than what the Conservative PCC is proposing for Norfolk Police.
“It is also important to remember that only 9.5 pence of every pound of council tax goes to NNDC, most taxpayer money goes to Norfolk County Council.”
Broadland MP Jerome Mayhew said the last 12 months had highlighted how important local councils are, and the government had been supporting them throughout the crisis.
He said: “The government has got behind them, providing an additional £7.2bn in support to date and with an increase in local government spending power of 4.5pc expected in 2021-22.
“When it comes to setting new council taxes, local decisions need to take account of the particular circumstances faced by each council and the people in their district.
“But it is important to remember that it is not just councils that have had financial pressures over the last year – many, many families and businesses in Broadland have had a torrid time.
“Private sector jobs have been hit hardest by the virus.
“This fact should be front of mind when any decision on council tax increases is taken.”