Council predicts 5% tax rise
By Benedict O'ConnorA COUNCIL that imposed the highest council tax increase in Suffolk this year is predicting a rise of below 5% for the next financial year.
By Benedict O'Connor
A COUNCIL that imposed the highest council tax increase in Suffolk this year is predicting a rise of below 5% for the next financial year.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council was criticised by council tax payers and some of its own councillors when it imposed an increase of 6.5% in February, the highest amount levied by any local authority in the county.
Council finance bosses said they had made budget savings of £1.4million and predicted next year's increase would be under 5%.
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It is also forecasting rises for the following two financial years will be reduced to about 4% and 3.5% respectively.
Sara Mildmay-White, the council's cabinet member for resources, said: “A lot of hard work has gone into reducing that figure.
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“We are still looking at every single budget to identify further savings and, as long as the Government plays its part by giving us the grant we need to deliver our services, we would expect to drive that figure of 5% down still further.”
Earlier this year some predictions put next year's council tax rise as high as 23.4%, but councillors and council staff have worked together on identifying new sources of income and efficiency savings.
However, councillor David Nettleton, a vocal opponent of this year's budget, felt a 5% increase was still too high.
“Most people's standard of living is increasing at the rate of inflation, something like 2.8%, and we should be looking to keep the council tax increase at the same rate,” he said.
“I think councillors still need to work harder and instead of looking at what they think they can afford to charge, they should be looking at what people can afford to pay.”
The council has so far managed to save £350,000 by changes to its computer system, with a further £200,000 saved through reduced insurance premiums, and £20,000 in printing costs for committee papers.
The budget is due to be discussed at a meeting of the council's cabinet next week, but the final figure will not be confirmed until February.