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West Suffolk: Town and parish councils raising precepts in wake of funding cuts

10:06 25 February 2014

Archant

Town and parish councils in west Suffolk are feeling the pinch of government cuts coming down the chain as new figures showed the vast majority are raising their precepts.

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Almost 80 of the 91 third-tier authorities across St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath have agreed to increase their precepts, with some parishes almost doubling their annual bill.

The increases come as parish councils face the first year of cuts in funding from both boroughs, which agreed to phase out their council tax support grant and revenue grant.

The grants will fall by 25% over the next four years until they are completely gone by 2017/18.

Clare Town Council has the most expensive Band D price at £112.69, an increase of 4.6% on the previous year.

However, the council has actually reduced its annual expenditure for the coming year, but was forced to raise its precept to cover for the withdrawal of grant funding.

Councillor Derek Blake, chairman of the council’s finance committee, said: “We didn’t have a choice. We could have withdrawn much-loved facilities from the community or push the money up.

“We’re at the bottom of the pile and we’ve got nowhere to go.”

Haverhill Town Council has the second highest average price, with a 3.69% rise on last year bringing its annual bill up to £111.75.

Town clerk Will Austin said the council had made £33,000 of savings and was in a position to freeze its council tax before St Edmundsbury announced its withdrawal.

He added: “It’s no surprise that parishes are having to raise their precepts just to keep things going.”

Its cuts from St Edmundsbury will total £129,000 over four years, and comes two years after it agreed to take responsibility for Haverhill Arts Centre, which allowed the borough to withdraw about £200,000 of support.

Lakenheath Parish Council’s yearly price of £110.01 comes after it raised its annual precept by 19.78% – one of the biggest increases in the region.

Clare, Haverhill and Lakenheath are the only three third-tier councils to charge more than £100.

St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath are facing a 48% and 49% cut respectively in revenue support grant from central government over the next two years.

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