South Norfolk approve 2.48pc council tax rise

Adam GrettonA district council leader has warned of 'radical surgery' in order to get his authority out of financial A&E after members approved a below inflation council tax rise.Adam Gretton

A district council leader has warned of 'radical surgery' in order to get his authority out of financial A&E after members approved a below inflation council tax rise.

Residents are set to see a 2.48pc increase in the South Norfolk precept from April after councillors agreed to share the pain of the recession by reducing their basic allowance bill.

But the leader of South Norfolk Council warned that further savings were required after the local authority was left with a �1.5m hole in its budget.

John Fuller told a meeting of the full council last night that the district council was well placed to ride out the economic downturn and the administration intended to avoid making staff redundancies.

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Members approved proposals to cut their basic allowance by �300 a year, which will save �9,000 and shave half a percent off the 2009/10 district council tax precept.

Mr Fuller said the recession had hit the council 'harder and more savagely' than expected and that by contributing from their own pockets, councillors were giving 56 times more than this week's �158 Local Authority Business Growth Incentive (LAGBI) grant from the government.

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'Every single council in the country is in financial A&E, but we have got the medicine and we are going straight to the recovery ward and we are dealing with it in a businesslike manner,' he said.

But the local authority's budget received criticism from the Liberal Democrat opposition who accused the Conservative administration of wasting thousands of pounds on trying to slow down the Boundary Commission's local government reorganisation.

Trevor Lewis said the South Norfolk Tories had made the financial situation worse by embracing 'gesture politics' last year and freezing the council tax.

'By not raising council tax [last year] you have cut your braces and are surprised to find your trousers around your ankles. We are being asked to sign a blank cheque and making the best of a bad job. A bad job you made in the first place,' he said.

But Mr Fuller said he was 'disappointed' that the local Liberal Democrat group had not put together an alternative budget and accused the previous administration of having nothing to show from the 'sell the family silver' years.

The council, which has suffered from a drop in planning application fees, an increase in benefit claims, and reductions in income on cash investments, approved a senior management restructure, which could save about �300,000. A call for a second independent review of councillor working hours and allowances in the autumn was defeated by one vote.

The South Norfolk Council precept for an average Band D property will be �130.68 from April - an increase of 6p a week.

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