County authority planning 3% rise in its share of council tax bills

Richard Rout

Richard Rout, deputy council leader and cabinet member for finance and the environment, said it was a far more positive budget than anticipated - Credit: Suffolk County Council

Households are facing a 3% rise in their county council tax bills from April 2022.

The administration at Suffolk County Council is proposing a maximum 1.99% increase on the main council tax element, and a 1% increase on the adult social care element – but no cuts to services.

It could have increased the adult social care element by a further 1% but resisted that to ease the burden on homes whose budgets are already facing rising energy bills and cost-of-living pressures.

The planned increase means an additional 62p per week for a Band B property – the most common in the county – or 80p per week for a Band D home.

Richard Rout, deputy council leader and cabinet member for finance and the environment, said: “This is a far more positive budget than one I had anticipated making earlier in the year. This is principally because the chancellor has recognised some of the pressures local government is under. The settlement we received was much more generous than we feared it might be, and that is something we in local government are really grateful for.

“This has been a really difficult budget to consider. Covid continues to make life really challenging on so many levels for all of us – for us as a council and for our residents.

“Rising costs as a result of inflation, increasing demand for key services year after year has put real pressure on our budget, so we need to support Suffolk, help it build back following the pandemic, but ensure the key services are there for those who need it most and we recognise that our residents are feeling the pressure too.

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“It’s not a decision we take lightly – we don’t come into this wanting to put up council tax, and I know for some people 62p or 80p a week is an amount that can make a real difference. However there is increasing recognition of the pressure our services are under and the need for them to be adequately resourced – particularly to support those who need it most.”

The budget plans will see the revenue budget increase from £598.2million to £625.4m in the year ahead.

That includes £16.2m additional cash going into the adult social care service and £9.9m in children’s and young people’s services. The authority said 75p in every £1 goes into those two service areas alongside public health.

The extra £9.9m for children’s services includes an additional £1.1m specifically to address improvements in special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) identified in an independent report earlier this year.

Mr Rout also said there will be an additional £6.5m set out next year to create even more SEND places, and an extra £1m over the next four years for ‘visible’ highways improvements like road sign repairs.

Opposition councillors have raised concerns over a number of elements.

The Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group said the lack of a specific carbon budget meant the Conservatives have “failed to take their own declaration of a climate emergency seriously,” and said the lack of support for the breweries and hospitality businesses in Suffolk left them with “the uncertainty of survival”.

Group leader Andrew Stringer said a one-year settlement from the Government was also not good enough. He added: “The Government have promised all year that we would have a three-year settlement. They have broken their promise, and have shattered the confidence of local services.

“You cannot run local services efficiently if you do not know what you’re getting the year after next. The Government expect members of its own society to plan ahead financially, why can we not expect the same of them?”

Sarah Adams, Labour group leader said: “The Conservatives are increasing taxes to almost the maximum possible, and this is because they have failed to put in more sensible increases over the last years.

“It has been clear to the opposition that by increasing the social care precept, this sharp increase in taxes could have been avoided. This is an accumulative failure to act, and if we were listened to before, we would not be repeating mistakes.”

The proposals will be assessed in detail by the council’s scrutiny committee next week, before a final sign off once any tweaks have been made on February 17.

The full council tax bill also includes separate elements for policing, the district or borough council and parish or town councils.