Ipswich: Tax bills set to rise in borough

Ben Gummer and David Ellesmere have clashed over council tax proposals.

Ben Gummer and David Ellesmere have clashed over council tax proposals. - Credit: Archant

The borough’s element of council tax bills are set to rise in April for the first time in two years – putting the authority on a collision-course with the government.

The borough is set to increase its council tax bills by 1.98% – a fraction under the 2% threshold that would trigger a local referendum under new legislation.

The increase amounts to just 9p a week, or even less, for most homes in the borough – and council leader David Ellesmere said a consultation exercise suggested most residents would be prepared to pay the extra.

The increase means the borough will lose a £100,000 bonus from the Department for Local Government which was on offer for councils freezing their tax demand. However the rise will bring in an extra £200,000.

Mr Ellesmere said: “We have found £5million in savings over the last few years, but we feel we cannot freeze council tax bills again without endangering services too much.”

He said that with inflation running between 2.5% and 3% and the government reducing grants to local authorities, the council had already suffered a substantial cut in income in real terms.

The borough was keen to protect front-line services, but Mr Ellesmere could not rule out cuts in the longer term.

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This year he was determined to try to boost economic support for the town with initiatives including retaining the reduced fees in borough car parks and attracting more special events.

A survey of voters in the town showed that 65% said they would approve of a small council tax increase to retain services.

However the move has not gone down well with the town’s Conservative MP.

Ben Gummer said: “This is a predictable but disappointing decision. It might look like a small increase, but it is the principle that matters.

“Other councils, including some Labour councils, have cut their council tax bills yet Ipswich is putting it up – the borough should be working to cut its spending.”

The borough’s element of council tax is higher than that in neighbouring districts. That is partially explained by the lack of parish or town council elements in Ipswich – voters in towns like Leiston or Sudbury can pay nearly £100 a year towards their local bodies.

Also Ipswich has a much higher proportion of its homes in the lowest two council tax bands – 69% of homes in the town are in bands A or B. In Mid Suffolk the proportion is 40%, in Babergh it is 41% and in Suffolk Coastal it is 38%.

That means more of the council’s income has to come from lower-band households, forcing the council to have higher bands.

Is the borough right to increase its council tax? Write to Your Letters, Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail starletters@archant.co.uk

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