Overcast

Overcast

max temp: 9°C

min temp: 3°C

ESTD 1874 Search

Poll: Public sector misses out on £7million due to council tax exemption for USAF staff at RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall

14:52 28 March 2014

RAF Lakenheath main gate.

RAF Lakenheath main gate.

West Suffolk’s public sector misses out on more than £7million in council tax every year due to members of the United States Air Force being exempt from paying the bill, the EADT can reveal today.

shares

Thousands of troops from RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall living off-base across St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath benefit from the exemption under legislation agreed back in 1952.

However, civic leaders in the area said last night that the USAF contributes in “many other ways” to the local economy.

While houses in the bases’ host district, Forest Heath, make up the brunt of the deficit, properties in neighbouring St Edmundsbury account for almost £1m of the shortfall, with 533 properties in Bury St Edmunds alone exempt from the charge this financial year.

Both bases contribute more than £500m to the local economy every year, while a spokeswoman for the USAF said yesterday that Mildenhall and Lakenheath pay an annual six-figure sum to the Ministry of Defence (MoD), which is handed over to local authorities to compensate for the exemption.

But Lindis Percy, co-ordinator from the Campaign for Accountability of American Air Bases, said the US military “get all sorts of perks” when stationed in this country, and called for a change in the law.

She said: “The US visiting forces and their families use the facilities and provisions provided by the local council that everyone else has to pay for. We are clearly not all in together with special arrangements made for them a long time ago. However the world is now very different from when this was decided in the 1950s.

“The loss of this large amount of revenue is much needed in these days of cuts, cuts and more cuts.

“This unfair and inappropriate exemption by the US Visiting Forces and their families needs to be changed.”

In total, 4,214 houses in Forest Heath account for a shortfall of £6.13m, while 625 exempt properties in St Edmundsbury leave a deficit of £933,000, according to figures for the current financial year.

A spokeswoman for USAF said that between them the bases paid £769,500 to the MoD this year, as part of a national programme paid to local authorities that house military bases.

Local authorities are also reportedly compensated through the money they are awarded from central government.

James Waters, leader of Forest Heath District Council, said: “Putting aside the compensation the Government says it offers in formula grant, this just cannot be looked at in isolation.

“The economic value of the USAF based in the region in terms of jobs and support for local business means more people productively working and fewer claiming benefits.

“We have lived with this arrangement for a long time and understand that they contribute in many others ways. You have to look at the wider picture. As long as they are investing on British soil, it has to be of benefit.”

The most popular place for the military to live is Eriswell, with 1,220 properties exempt.

More than 400 houses do not pay the bill in Beck Row, Mildenhall, Red Lodge or Lakenheath, as well as Bury, but exemptions apply to properties across the region.

Every town or village in Forest Heath has at least one exempt property, with 206 houses exempt in Newmarket, while the likes of Haverhill, Great Barton and Stadishall have houses that do not pay due to USAF staff.

shares

0 comments

Mark Bee and his deputy Lisa Chambers at Endeavour House in Ipswich after they saw off last year's challenge to their leadership.

Conservative councillor Mark Bee is to step down as leader of Suffolk County Council after four years in the role.

Voting isn't the only form of political engagement

The ideological machine that is meant to serve us has gone wrong and is tyrannising us, but that doesn’t mean we should boycott the ballot box

Suffolk has an ageing population - but can we cope?

Dramatic increases in the average age of people in Suffolk have been highlighted in a report which reveals that in some areas nearly one in 10 are expected to be aged 85 or over in the next two decades.

Damage to overhead wires between Diss and Stowmarket - photo courtesy of Greater Anglia

Rail users face an afternoon and evening of severe delays on routes between Norwich and London, after high winds caused damage to overhead power lines between Stowmarket and Diss.

There is the potential for sweeping changes at Braintree District Council come election day – though in practice that is unlikely to happen.

Klaudia Sokolowska

Police are searching for a 14-year-old girl in Felixstowe who has gone missing for the third time in three months.

Hunting for eggs

Will you be feeding the newborn lambs at The Museum of East Anglian Life, trying your hand at archery at Ickworth House or hunting eggs at The Middy’s Steam up this weekend?

Princess Anne meets Livability Treetops Service Manager Janet Bilton during her visit to Livability Treetops in Colchester on Tuesday.

The Princess Royal flew in to Colchester today as part of her work supporting a disability charity.

Firefighters were called to the house fire

Firefighters were called to a house fire in Stowmarket this afternoon.

Fears over future of probation service in Suffolk and elsewhere in East Anglia

Criminals jailed for up to a year could be supervised over the phone and use kiosks to report to the probation service electronically once they are released back in the community.

Most read

Most commented

Topic pages