Mid Suffolk prepares 2% council tax rise from April 2019

Endeavour House, home to Suffolk County Council and Babergh and Mid Suffolk District councils Pictur

Endeavour House, home to Suffolk County Council and Babergh and Mid Suffolk District councils Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: ARCHANT

A council tax rise of 2% has been proposed for Mid Suffolk from April, as the first draft of the council’s budget outlines savings of £5.1million.

Dick Whittington at the Regal Theatre in Stowmarket - not needing to spend huge sums on the theatre

Dick Whittington at the Regal Theatre in Stowmarket - not needing to spend huge sums on the theatre this year will help the council's budget Picture: SODS - Credit: Archant

Mid Suffolk District Council’s cabinet will meet on Monday, January 7, where the first draft of its 2019/20 budget will be discussed.

Among the headline figures are a 2% increase in council tax – the equivalent of around 6p per week.

While the provisional finance settlement, which came from central government in December, revealed additional funding of £511,000, continuing pressures on squeezed council budgets has meant savings or income of £5.1m is needed next year.

Councillor John Whitehead, Mid Suffolk District Council’s cabinet member for finance, said: “These proposals are just that - proposals.

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“The cabinet will be discussing them in January, and they will go to full council in February, either of which could request changes, so it’s important to understand these are not the final figures.”

Councillor Whitehead said it was vital to understand that with the government’s Support Grant to Mid Suffolk falling to zero this year and the end to the business rates retention pilot in Suffolk - where councils kept 100% of business rates collected instead of sending 50% to central government - the council would be facing tough choices about how it funded and delivered services in response to this challenge.

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Around half of the £5.1m in savings is coming from the Regal Theatre not receiving any cash from the growth and efficiency fund, which it received last year for regeneration work.

Elsewhere, the council is set to invest a further £25m in its property investment firm CIFCO, which has drawn criticism for largely investing outside of the county.

Savings are also being made in HQ security costs, ICT contracts and reductions in legal and staffing costs.

Among pots to have benefitted are an additional £86,000 from the Rural Service Delivery Grant, an increase in baseline business rates from £1.9m to £2.2m and an increase in the new homes bonus of £53,000.

If the first draft is approved by cabinet, it will be discussed again at the next cabinet on February 4 before being put to the full council on February 21.

Mid Suffolk’s draft budget for 2019/20 shows no sign of the “end of austerity” promised by Government, according to the opposition Green Group of councillors. In this view they are echoing the response of the Local Government Association (LGA) to the Chancellor’s autumn budget.

Councillor Andrew stringer, leader of the opposition Green group, said the draft budget showed no sign of the “end of austerity” promised by the government.

“We don’t accept the need for further cuts in services which this reduced budget implies,” he said.

“For more than five years now there has been an annual underspend of between £500,000 and £1 million.

“This is simply political scaremongering, trying to frighten communities into expecting even less while charges rise is simply wrong.

“Mid Suffolk residents are right to ask why we have had constant large underspends while we consistently miss government housing targets, consequently allowing thousands of houses to be approved where communities have not planned for them.”

The Green group argue that the district council should fully replace county council cuts to grants to local citizens advice bureaux.

The council currently has many major projects underway such as the Gateway 14 industrial development, two middle school sites, the headquarters building in Needham and Paddock House in Eye.

“Management time is spread too thinly dealing with all of these as well as the controversial investment of £25 million outside the district. This is not the time to make cuts to management,” Councillor Stringer said.

He also repeated his party’s call at the council meeting in December for an updated major risk register to be published before the budget was decided.

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