Council tax hike blamed on Whitehall
SUFFOLK councillors yesterday laid the blame for a record 18.5% council tax rise on Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's decision to divert cash away from the south and east to other areas of England.
By Graham Dines
SUFFOLK councillors have laid the blame for a record 18.5% council tax rise on Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's decision to divert cash away from the south and east to other areas of England.
David Rowe, the Labour county councillor with responsibility for the budget, said without the Government intervention, the increase in Suffolk would have been 8% lower.
Labour and Liberal Democrats on the ruling executive committee unanimously approved a Band D tax level of £890.28 – the Government's yardstick rate – an increase of £138.87.
Although Mr Prescott's name was not mentioned, it was clear that Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors on the ruling executive committee were far from happy at his decision to equalise grants to councils across the country.
Mr Rowe said "it seems strange" that the more councils spent without showing any efficiency improvements, the more cash they received from Whitehall.
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Although Suffolk's tax rise was six times the rate of inflation, it was faced with huge extra costs such as salary rises, and bigger utility bills and insurance premiums.
Liberal Democrat leader Peter Monk said it was "very unfortunate" that as a council, Suffolk had been penalised for being too efficient. "I am disappointed that we are having to make such a huge increase."
Kathy Pollard (Liberal Democrat) said Suffolk had been "shafted" by the Government and it was difficult to explain such a huge increase to ordinary taxpayers.
She insisted Suffolk was not spending money on frivolity – it wanted to improve services, especially social care.
"In Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, the county councils are closing libraries while we have opened two in the past 18 months. This shows we are committed to improving services."
Labour's Ray Novak said: "We should be proud of the services we provide. Most people out there do appreciate that, because it makes the quality of life in Suffolk better."
And Labour's Joan Girling said Suffolk residents wanted quality services and "the fact of life is that have to pay for them."
HOW THE 18.5% TAX RISE AFFECTS YOU.
Band A £593.52, up £92.58
Band B £692.44, up £108.01
Band C £791.36, up £123.44
Band D £890.28, up £138.87
Band E £1,088.12, up £169.73
Band F £1,285.96, up £200.59
Band G £1,483.80, up £231.45
Band H £1,780.56, up £277.74
Final bills will also include district council and police authority taxes, plus town and parish precepts where appropriate.