Bury St Edmunds: Row over Apex as council tax is frozen
PUBLISHED: 09:00 28 February 2013
Copyright Photograph by Morley von Sternberg t 020 8989 5704 m 07850 367514 e Morley@vonSternberg.com
THE shadow of the Apex loomed large again as councillors were told the pressure is on to find new ways of saving money.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council voted overwhelmingly to freeze council tax for the third successive year, while discounts for working age claimants and those with second homes were slashed.
But resources portfolio holder Dave Ray told Tuesday night’s full council meeting that although the sharing of services with Forest Heath had helped cover a “large part” of the gap for this year’s and next year’s budget, fresh ideas were needed to deal with the “continuing pressure” of Government cuts and inflation.
He added: “We need to put our thinking caps on. We need the next good idea on how we save money and do our business in a more efficient way.”
About £2million of further savings are required over the next three years.
David Nettleton, independent councillor for Risbeygate, said he believed money could be saved by cutting the Apex’s £750,000 subsidy and leasing the venue out.
He added: “Should the council be selling tickets for an Elkie Brooks concert? I don’t think so.”
But his comments on the “non-essential” service, which mirrored questions raised previously in the meeting by members of the public, were dismissed by Green councillor Julia Wakelam.
She said: “It is not a subsidy it is an investment, it increases people’s enjoyment of life. It is not just about money, it is about how people live their lives.”
Council leader John Griffiths said the venue, which has only been running for two years, had brought in about £125m of investment into Bury St Edmunds. He added: “It is not just the cost, it is the value.”
Mr Griffiths said the Apex subsidy was far less than the amount spent on St Edmundsbury’s award-winning parks. He added: “I don’t think there would be support if we were to say enough is enough on that.”
Mr Ray, who also stressed the importance of Bury St Edmunds’ “cultural offer”, said savings of about £30,000 would be made on the Apex next year.
Mr Ray said that as 28 parishes had increased their precept and 12 others had decreased, people in different parts of St Edmundsbury would be paying slightly different rates. Landlords of empty homes, previously exempt from paying council tax, will have to pay 90% of the bill from April – while those who leave a home empty for more than two years will face a 150% bill. Owners of second homes will see their discount reduced from 10% to 5%. People who can work but are on benefit, will have to pay 8.5% – roughly £2 a week.