Council tax crashes through £1,400 mark

COUNCIL tax for six market towns and villages in Suffolk and north Essex has crashed through the £1,400 mark for the first time, joining Ipswich in having some of the highest Band D rates in England.

By Graham Dines

COUNCIL tax for six market towns and villages in Suffolk and north Essex has crashed through the £1,400 mark for the first time, joining Ipswich in having some of the highest Band D rates in England.

Householders in Sudbury, Great Dunmow, Wickham St Paul near Braintree, Haverhill, East Donyland near Colchester and Saffron Walden will be paying a high price for local authority services from April 1, as average council tax bills across the region rise by just over 3%.

Ipswich Borough Council has traditionally levied one of the top tax rates in the country, reflecting its provision of regional services and the need to provide social housing.

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From April, its residents will be paying on average £150 a year more than in neighbouring Needham Market, part of Mid Suffolk district.

The Ipswich tax rate of £1,462.14 also contrasts sharply with the other large towns in the region. Householders in Colchester will be paying £1,342.06, Bury St Edmunds £1,338.84, Chelmsford £1,325.41, and Lowestoft £1,309.69

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But it is some of the smaller communities that will be levying higher council tax than their bigger neighbours.

Parish and town councils have the power to levy local precepts to help pay for community projects and this has pushed up total council tax bills for residents.

In Wickham St Peter, which has 250 residents, householders in average Band D properties will be paying £75.85 more as year - £1.52 a week - in council tax than Braintree within the same district.

Lynn Exley, the village's parish clerk, said the high figure had been the same for the last three years. “We've done quite a bit to the village. We put swings in and posts around the village green, as well as new goal posts.

“We only get so much money as a grant. I think the residents are pleased something has been done - they haven't commented too much though.”

She said other projects and repairs included work on the bus shelter, maintaining two large ponds, replacing a stolen lifebelt, new parking signs to stop people parking on the village green and a village sign. “Village people who do come to meetings understand where the money has been spent.”

East Donyland, part of Colchester, has a Band D tax rate £1,401.64, which is nearly £100 a year more than in the borough's urban centre.

Parish councillor Peter Byham said: “We're a fairly high-maintenance village. It is particularly high this year, but unfortunately our clerk, who had been in the role for 40 years, has died,”

He said the council had had to set up and equip a new temporary office and hoped to receive a grant to pay for a new permanent one in the village hall.

Ann Nunn, chairman of Leiston-cum-Sizewell town council, which has the highest property taxes in Suffolk Coastal district, said the levy was needed to update the film theatre and to set money aside for refurbishing the community centre. “Residents are proud of our facilities and appreciate the need to support them financially.”

Residents of Haverhill will be forking out £70 a year more in council tax than Bury St Edmunds, which are both in St Edmundsbury district.

Gordon Mussett , Haverhill's town clerk, said: “The key is whether or not residents believe the town council is delivering the services they want and providing value for money. Generally, the public recognises the council can deliver good quality local services.”

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