Council tax pledge despite cash shortage

A SUFFOLK council has pledged to restrict the council tax rise to less than 3% despite a £850,000 budget gap.The Government has described the spending increase of £199,000 for Suffolk Coastal District Council as a good settlement for 2007/08 - but the council says this is below the rate of inflation.

A SUFFOLK council has pledged to restrict the council tax rise to less than 3% despite a £850,000 budget gap.

The Government has described the spending increase of £199,000 for Suffolk Coastal District Council as a good settlement for 2007/08 - but the council says this is below the rate of inflation.

Ray Herring, council leader, said: “The announcement by the Government of what central funding will be available to help support the cost of local services was exactly what we had feared but expected. “There has been absolutely no change from Government's initial announcement last year.

“Once again the reality, despite the claims from Whitehall, is that the increases in demand for our services and in our costs are not being met by the Government.


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“For example, the cost of the free bus pass scheme alone is expected to rise by £180,000 for this district next year, but there is no offer yet to meet these additional costs from the Government that told us to provide this extra service last year.''

The additional burden of the concessionary fares scheme, £180,000 for next year, is just below the total Government grant increase for next year to cover the cost of all services

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Cllr Herring added: “The reform of the local government finance system is long overdue and it is not acceptable for the burden of funding national challenges to continue to be placed on the council taxpayer.

“This council will keep its council tax rise in April to below three percent, but this smoke and mirrors settlement from the Government will do nothing to help us close our £850,000 budget gap between our current level of services and our expected total income.

“The gap is largely caused by national factors outside of our direct control, such as inflation and new unfunded Government burdens.”

On December 6 the public can ask questions about the council's budget with Cllr Herring and Stephen Baker, Chief Executive, during a special webchat.

They will be online to answer questions about the council's spending plans for next year in the first chat held on its website www.suffolkcoastal.gov.uk between 6pm and 9pm.

Visitors to the website can also play the budget game and make their spending decisions on nearly 40 different local services, and see the impact on the services and the council tax bill.

These responses, along with all others received by the council, will be reported back to councillors when they make their budget decisions.

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