Residents face 5% council tax rise

By John HowardRESIDENTS could face an inflation-busting hike in council tax from a local authority elected with a promise to keep rises down.Mid Suffolk District Council is also looking at making further savings after already shedding 30 jobs during the last budget.

By John Howard

RESIDENTS could face an inflation-busting hike in council tax from a local authority elected with a promise to keep rises down.

Mid Suffolk District Council is also looking at making further savings after already shedding 30 jobs during the last budget.

The Conservative and Independent-run council faced a dire financial situation last year as it struggled to make savings of £1.57million.


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Now as it discusses the budget strategy for 2005/6, senior department heads have provisionally indicated a council tax rise of 5% - ahead of inflation at 3% - and the need to make further savings.

However, the final amount could change and will be debated by councillors before being approved.

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Roger Saunders, leader of the council, reassured staff yesterday there would be no more redundancies and added there were no plans to further increase the unpopular car parking charges in Stowmarket.

But he warned services that the council are not legally obliged to provide would have to be reviewed and said a 5% council tax rise was lower than the rise anticipated nationally of more than 6%.

Mr Saunders pointed out the council had to meet a 2.95% pay rise, find more money for the pension fund and was already £300,000 short in its funds.

“If we can make council tax rises less than 5%, great, but I do not think that is realistic. But it is early days and I would like to try and reduce that figure. Even at 5%, that's 1% less than last year.”

Duncan Macpherson, leader of the Labour group om the district council, said: “It's early days and it's not just a case of what the rise in taxes maybe, but what people might get for them.”

Stephen Joyce, head of financial management, said: “The council's financial position continues to be tight, but the position is significantly less challenging than the 2004/5 budget cycle.

“Some degree of savings will be necessary to balance the 2005/6 budget. Each 1% increase in council tax brings an additional yield of £40,000, therefore the difference between a rise of 3% and 5% is a yield of £80,000.”

The council is expected to debate the budget on Monday.

john.howard@eadt.co.uk

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