A Torridge councillor says residents are “paying more and getting less” as they approved council tax and car parking increases to address a  budget shortfall of half a million pounds.

Households in the district will pay an average of £5.50 more a week in council tax from April to pay for services delivered by the district council. And car park charges, planning fees and costs for cemetery plots will rise in line with inflation.

Councillors agreed the maximum 2.99 per cent increase on council tax and the fees and charges rise as they were told if they didn’t the budget deficit would balloon to £1-million over the next five years.

Car parking charges will increase by 10p or 20p on short stays and up to 50p on long stays from April. At Northam Burrows the daily charge for a car will increase by £1 and £1.50 for minibuses.

Motor homes parking for a day in Bideford, Holsworthy and Torrington car parks will pay £11 instead of £8.

Pre-planning advice fees, which were brought in several years ago after lobbying from local authorities to pay for the time officers spent on planning issues, will cost £75 for a residential extension to £1,605 for a large scale development. Members were told the charges were still less than West Devon Borough Council.

The council’s section 151 finance officer Gordon Bryant said fees may well have to increase again as money would be tight over the next five years.

Fees and charges, such as hiring beach huts and parking permits, brings in the most income for the council – around £7.8-million. Business rates are second at £5.5-million, with £4.8-million from council tax. Government grants, which have been significantly cut over the past decade, are £1.3-million.

Councillors heard that the staff pay rise of 4.5 per cent had impacted on the last year’s budget, but running costs for leisure centres could fall if decarbonisation funding bids to the government are accepted.

Agency staff cost the council £500,000 more than expected and temporary accommodation costs had been high, although were now dropping because of investment in permanent housing.

The greatest positive impact on the council’s revenue budget in the current year was due to high interest on cash balances, said Mr Bryant who told councillors it was not “all doom and gloom.”

He continued: “The deficit figures may appear daunting, but the council has a proven record in identifying and delivering savings and there are future options available that will assist in bringing income and expenditure back in to balance.”

But Cllr Anna Dart (Ind, Hartland) said it didn’t matter what the council did, residents still have to pay more for less.

“We are still going to have to raise council tax and fees and charges next year, and council tax payers are getting less and less for their money.

“I went to five parish council meetings last week and the Devon county councillors made it clear that the majority of money that needs spending on roads is going into the areas which have the most residents, which means here we will get nothing. Where does this leave Torridge?”