Council tax to soar next year - warning

NEWLY released details on county budget proposals for next year will mean a big increase in council tax it was claimed today.

Neil Puffett

NEWLY released details on county budget proposals for next year will mean a big increase in council tax it was claimed today.

Suffolk County Council reckons it will receive a similar increase in funding from central government as last year but will need to make up to 22 job cuts in order to balance the books.

After earmarking savings of £12.5 million the council said it has drafted plans for an extra £5 million for older people, £1.4 million for vulnerable children and young people as well as £2.1 million for the cost of landfill tax.

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Meanwhile an additional £4 million will go to managing and reducing volumes of waste and £16.5 million will be set aside to cover inflation.

Initial details of the budget, have been criticised by the Labour opposition to the Tory administration.

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Kevan Lim, deputy leader of Suffolk's Labour group, claimed that the council tax increase for next year has come in above the four per cent mark and accused the council of not getting its priorities right.

He said: “One of the things I have noticed in the budget is they are going to make further reductions in home care provision and increase some of the charging again.

“When they claim they are looking after the vulnerable and elderly it is total nonsense.”

The council said the amount of funding from government is expected to be in line with previous figures as part of the three year grant settlement. This would see a forecast increase in grants of 4.9 per cent for 2009/10.

Jane Storey, responsible for resource management and transformation at the council said: “While the economy is going through a recession the county council's finances are sound and we are in a good position to assist the local economy to get through these challenges because of our previous careful budgeting.

County chiefs say they aim to keep redundancies to a minimum through “careful management of vacancies and staff turnover”.

Leader of the council Jeremy Pembroke said: “Our job is to care for vulnerable people and provide value for money services for everyone in Suffolk while keeping the council tax as low as possible.

“In these times of financial uncertainty there will continue to be growing demands for our services and the council will do all it can to help individuals and businesses through the economic downturn.

“The scrutiny proposals indicated that we would like to put additional cash into key areas while continuing to look at ways of making the council more efficient.”

The proposed budget will be debated at a scrutiny committee meeting on December 16 prior to being considered by the council's cabinet on February 5.

The final decision on the level of council tax and the budget will be made at a meeting of the full council on February 19.

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