May 19 2013 Latest news:
By Paul Geater
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
The borough is to go ahead with increasing council tax bills by fractionally under 2%.
The move was approved by a full meeting of the authority at the town’s Corn Exchange after Labour council leader David Ellesmere warned that without the increase there could be serious problems in the future.
Mr Ellesmere said the council had already been hit by spending constraints: “We are facing cuts of 19% over the next three years – and that comes after cuts of 20% over the last three.”
He was concerned that a gap could open in the next three years, and said without making the increase now there would be serious problems ahead.
A government offer of a special grant to councils that froze their council tax only ran for the next two years – and if the authority did not take action now there could be a major funding gap in years ahead.
The borough is increasing its element of council tax by 1.98%, fractionally under the 2% threshold that would trigger a referendum.
The county council and police commissioner are freezing their council tax demands, so the overall rise will be much less than 1% – it amounts to £4.76 a year or 9p a week for a Band B property.
Mr Ellesmere said that despite the cuts, the council had managed to invest in services and improve the town.
He said that the council was hoping to maintain services – but this would involve using some of the reserves that had been built up.
Mr Ellesmere’s claim about investing in the town made former Conservative council leader Liz Harsant see red.
She said: “They have taken credit for Little Waitrose in the Corn Exchange, which they opposed, and the John Lewis development that was negotiated by our administration.
“The Regent theatre was refurbished and turned into a top venue when we were running the town – it was in a dreadful state when we took over. And we managed to develop Giles Circus which Labour opposed.
“We managed to develop the town while freezing council taxes – and managed to reduce them in our last year. I shall not be voting for this budget.”
Liberal Democrat leader Andrew Cann was concerned about the effect of raiding the reserves over the next three years.
He said: “We know things are bad, and we know they are trying to preserve services.
“Things will be okay next year and the year after. But what will happen in 2016 when there are no more reserves to raid? ”
Despite this concern the budget was backed by the huge Labour majority on the borough council and bills will be sent out next month.
Is it right to put up council tax bills? Write to Your Letters, Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org