Downham Market Town Council yesterday (17th Jan) voted to keep the precept, its share of our council tax bill, at the same level it was last year. This is the second year in a row that the council has decided not to increase the bill.
The council raises some £543,020 from the council tax payers in the town, this makes up the majority of the council’s annual income. The financial year 2021/22 was the last time the precept was increased, when tax payers paid 4.5% more than in 2020/21. The actual amount paid varies depending on which ‘tax band’ your house fits within based on the property value in 1991 (graded A to H).
The council discussed yesterday two large expenses it will face in the coming months which are beyond its normal spending. The road surface in car parks are in need of repair to prevent them becoming unsafe, and the town hall roof needs repair as leaks may soon affect the structure of the building.
The meeting heard that this increased spending could be funded by increasing the precept, dipping into the council’s reserves, or taking out a loan to cover the cost and pay it back over time. People are currently facing a cost of living squeeze with inflation rising by 9.2% in the year to December 2022. Interest rates set by the Bank of England are higher than they have been since 2008.
Councils are advised to have one third of the precept income in reserves each year. The town clerk suggest the current reserves are at around half the value of the precept, but the clerk raised there are a few more months of the financial year remaining and this may go down.
Some councillors in the meeting drew attention to the state of the economic climate in the UK at the moment. Cllr Moyses said “to keep the precept the same would be much appreciated by the people of Downham Market.”
Cllr Lawson, chair of the finance committee, made a proposal to keep the precept as it was the previous year and to take out loans to cover the project work around carpark and town hall repairs. 7 councillors voted in favour, 4 against, and 2 abstained from the vote.
The town council precept is only one element of the overall council tax bill. The Norfolk County Council, West Norfolk Borough Council, and Norfolk Police each set their own taxation levels to make up the full bill we pay.
The Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk is seeking to increase the Police’s share of the council tax bill by 5.2% and ran a consultation on the proposal which closed this week. The results from the consultation and decision on the increase have not been announced.
With local council elections coming up in May, budget decisions are likely to be a hot topic that could affect how voters decide on who to re-elect.