06/02/18: Breckland councillors consider council tax rise

Breckland Council members today (February 6) debated a potential rise in local council tax, in order to protect frontline services. Breckland's Cabinet considered a report which recommends the council increases district council tax in 2018-19 by £4.95 for the year (based on a Band D property).

A £4.95 tax increase would see residents in Band D properties pay £83.88 from April, however as the majority of residents in Breckland (77%) live in properties which are Bands A to C - including 54% of the district's residents who live in Band A or B homes - most people would see their district council tax bills rise by less than £4.95 per year. For example, the increase for a Band A home would be £3.30 per year.

Cabinet members discussed how the majority of households pay less than £1.43 a week towards the services provided by the district council and that the proposed rise - the equivalent of around 9p more per week - would enable the council to continue to support frontline services and investment initiatives. Cabinet members resolved to put forward the recommendation to a meeting of full Council later in the month.

Even if the rise is agreed by Council, district council tax in Breckland is still expected to remain the lowest in the country. The proposed rise was suggested as Breckland Council's income from central government continues to fall, as a result in reductions in revenue support grant and New Homes Bonus. However, costs associated with delivering services continue to rise through inflation and other pressures.

Cllr Philip Cowen, Breckland Council's Executive Member for Finance, said: "Breckland Council is working hard to deliver good services for residents while keeping them affordable; our district council services cost households less than a cup of coffee per week.

"We've avoided making cuts to frontline services through sensible financial planning and by making our services and back-office teams more efficient. Our commercially-minded approach is proving successful, with the council generating around as much money from our existing investments as we receive from local council tax. The savings and new income we have delivered to date have seen us save £1.5m since April 2016 and we expect to save more than another million pounds before April 2019.

"However, like many councils, we have been affected by central government cuts to public sector funding, which means we have to think carefully about how we balance our budget going forward and what we want to be able to do in the future. We will always do what we can to keep the financial burden off local residents but freezing council tax is not an option, particularly if we want to continue delivering the services that our residents expect and to maintain our commitment to the district's growth and prosperity."