Diss residents will see their council tax payments to the town council increase by 9.4 per cent for the upcoming 2017/18 financial year.
Town councillors approved their draft annual budget at a Full Council meeting this week, meaning that a Band ‘D’ homeowner will pay £163.92 to the town council for the year — equal to about £13.66 a month.
The figure had previously been expected to be higher, due to a shortfall created by cuts to government grant funding and changes to local council tax benefits, which has seen the town council’s income from these sources fall by £43,000 over the last four financial years.
However, councillors agreed on Wednesday to use some of their earmarked reserves to minimise the effects on taxpayers, stating this was a one-off measure to help the council prepare for the long term.
Councillor Trevor Wenman, chairman of the Executive Committee, told councillors they had been saving “quite substantial” reserves for “a rainy day”, and with the recent losses in grant income, he said that rainy day had arrived.
“The budget we have set out is a robust one,” he said.
“This budget will mean that we deal with that particular elephant in the room, and then we get back onto an even keel.
“Once that is done, we can start planning for the future.
“This is a special case. It means we can phase the increase in over a couple of years to soften the blow.”
Cllr Wenman also told the meeting that setting the precept rise at 9.4 per cent this year was done on the understanding that it will likely increase again the following year, by a smaller percentage, as a result of further expected cuts to local authority funding.
In a statement following the meeting, Town Mayor Mike Bardwell said: “The Town Council is always reluctant to increase its share of the Council Tax. However, this year councillors concluded unanimously that it was the only option to maintain and improve our services and facilities.
“We will be reviewing all our services in order to continue to make savings and to prevent significant increases in future.”
The town council confirmed that a boundary review is also underway, which could result in adjoining parishes contributing towards services in Diss.
Town Clerk Deborah Sarson said: “During these difficult financial times, we understand that increases are unwelcome. However, with reductions in services from District and County Councils, the Town Council is taking on more responsibilities.
“We’ve worked hard on the budget to keep the increase to an absolute minimum, whilst allowing us to maintain and improve our services as set out in our strategy plan.”