Council tax challenge for councils

A CAMPAIGN group has demanded that every council in Suffolk should follow the lead of one authority and stop inflation-busting rises in their share of council tax bills.

A CAMPAIGN group has demanded that every council in Suffolk should follow the lead of one authority and stop inflation-busting rises in their share of council tax bills.

The Protest Against Council Tax Suffolk (PACTS) group welcomed Ipswich Borough Council's pledge to reduce rises and said it would remain vigilant against authorities imposing increases above inflation.

Reg Hartles, chairman of PACTS, said: “We welcome Ipswich Borough Council taking this stand and we hope they set an example to other boroughs and districts.

“We would like to challenge them all to keep their council tax increases below the rate of inflation.


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“Obviously, a zero increase would be just, bearing in mind the high increases in the last four years and we are looking very carefully at possible increases.”

Mr Hartles said PACTS would be sending a letter to every county councillor, explaining “what we expect in view of the hardship they have created.”

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He added that reduced rises may reflect the fact there is a General Election next year and added: “You have to bear in mind that these individuals voted for the 18.5% rise two years ago.

“We will keep the pressure on - it is only right and proper. Our councillors also have a vital role to play in keeping up the pressure on central Government.”

The leader of the new Conservative/Liberal Democrat administration at Ipswich Borough Council, Dale Jackson, said it was “working tirelessly” to find a budget solution and keep council tax down as low as it can.

His comments came as the chancellor announced the authority had the second lowest rise in its Government grant in the county at just 3%.

Mr Jackson said yesterday: “We are out to cut waste and not services and much of the work has already been done by our councillors and staff here at Civic Centre.

“The recent announcement by the chancellor has not put us off our stride. The council tax rise will definitely be inflation or below and it will be the lowest in Suffolk.

“I can't guarantee that though, as other councils may undercut us by 0.1%,” he added.

The council said there would be a new approach to service delivery, where they are delivered and facilitated by the council.

The boom in property developments in the borough would also see a considerable increase in the council tax base, as many of them would be in the higher bands.

Meanwhile, leaders of the Conservative/Independent-controlled Mid Suffolk District Council pledged to keep rises low - but the leader of the opposition group has warned the authority may have to make more than £500,000 in savings.

Penny Otton, leader of the Liberal Democrats on the council, said she fears services such as urgent repairs to council houses and an out-of-hours facility for environmental complaints may be under threat.

But Sara Michell, the authority's Conservative deputy leader, said: “We were left in a deficit after the last Liberal Democrat administration and had to put that right.

“We won't cut any more services than we need to - the last thing we want to do is cut services.

“But we also want to keep council tax rises down, that was our pledge to voters to keep taxes low and that's what we will do.

Elsewhere, a spokesman for Suffolk Coastal District said: “The council has made it clear that because of extreme financial factors including the Government under funding of this district we need to identify £1million of savings in order to keep next years council tax rise to 5%.”

A spokesman for Waveney District Council added: “We are currently in the very early stages of assessing council tax for next year and it really is too early to tell what the changes will be.

“We do not want to raise any hopes at this time because at the moment we have no firm idea.”

And a spokesman for Babergh District Council echoed the statement, saying that the process will not really start until January and February and so it was far too early to predict what any rise or fall might be.

Neither Forest Heath District Council or St Edmundsbury Borough Council have yet predicted their council tax rises for next year.

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