Council tax to be under 5% - just!

By Richard SmithEVERY penny spent by staff at a local authority has been analysed in an effort to keep the next council tax rise to less than 5%.Suffolk Coastal District Council has been through its budget for 2005-06 with a fine toothcomb in an attempt to cut costs and increase income.

By Richard Smith

EVERY penny spent by staff at a local authority has been analysed in an effort to keep the next council tax rise to less than 5%.

Suffolk Coastal District Council has been through its budget for 2005-06 with a fine toothcomb in an attempt to cut costs and increase income.

The Government wants every local authority to budget prudently and bring in increases of less than 5%. Councils who fail to toe the line will be hit by tougher capping action.


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But Suffolk Coastal District Council is only just going to meet the Government edict - according to the agenda for the cabinet meeting on February 1, it will aim for a 4.95% increase.

This will mean the council's annual charge for a band D property will be £125.82, but the precepts for the county council, police authority and parish or town councils will also have to be added to give the final council tax figure.

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Robert Whiting, the council's cabinet member with responsibility for fiscal and democratic services, said: “In recommending a tax to meet the council's budget needs, cabinet will also wish to ensure as far as is possible that the tax is not high enough to prompt Government to cap it.

“A tax of £125.82 will be well below the average for shire districts and in these circumstances capping could be considered to be both unreasonable and hence unlikely.”

More than £1million of savings will be achieved by reviewing staff levels, delaying the redecoration of public toilets and council buildings, reducing the need for consultants, stopping the provision of free dog poop scoops and cutting back on walking and cycling initiatives.

A partnership with the private sector and a housing association to reduce the need for bed and breakfast accommodation for single people will bring a saving of £116,500.

More than £50,000 has been saved by challenging the amount of rates paid on buildings and there have been savings in travelling allowances, publications and subscriptions.

The council has also managed to increase future income by more than £350,000, including new charges for removing abandoned vehicles and increased charges for the collection of bulky household waste.

Its development control department will receive an extra £75,000 in income due to an increase in fees.

The council is facing some extra costs due to taking over the implementation of licensing legislation. This will be £100,000, but finance officers said it would be repaid by income from fees and charges.

A local plan inquiry will cost nearly £47,000, but this will be paid for from earmarked reserves, while £120,000 needs to be set aside for an increase in statutory pension contributions following a review.

richard.smith@eadt.co.uk

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