Suffolk £60 council tax hike warning

CASH-strapped households could pay up to an extra £60 a year in council tax as county bosses bid to balance the books, it was claimed last night.

Jonathan Barnes

CASH-strapped households could pay up to an extra £60 a year in council tax as county bosses bid to balance the books, it was claimed last night.

Suffolk County Council expects to receive a rise of 4.9% in funding from the Government next year but faces extra pressure in helping people and businesses through the recession.

Leaders pledged to keep council tax increases “as low as possible” but opposition councillors said they feared rises of up to 4% as the council tries to make savings and boost income.

Householders living in Band D properties in Suffolk currently pay about £1,400 a year in council tax - of which about £1,000 of which goes to the county council - and a 4% overall increase would put bills up by about £56.

Jane Storey, responsible for resource management and transformation, said the administration was continuing to work through the detail of how much council tax will go up by next year but said the council remains committed to keeping any increase low.

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She said: “I would hope it will be less than the 3.75% increase we had last year. It is difficult trying to weigh up the balance of giving as many services as you can with keeping council tax increases low.”

But Kevan Lim, deputy leader of the Labour group, said he feared the council tax rise could be as high as 4% which he said was “far too much”.

“We have no confidence the Conservative administration is managing the county's affairs properly. “Even though they accept they have had another favourable settlement from Government, at a time of economic pressure for everyone they continue to massively increase the council budget.”

The Conservative administration, which unveiled its provisional 2009-10 budget yesterday, said it would have to make 22 job cuts as it strove to make savings of £12.5m.

It plans to cut £7m from the adult and community services budget, but said investment in this area would see a net budget increase of £5m.

It claimed to have also drafted an extra £1.4m for vulnerable children and young people as well as £2.1m for the cost of landfill tax.

Meanwhile, an additional £4m will go to managing and reducing volumes of waste and £16.5m will be set aside to cover inflation, as costs rise by 6.6%. The council is due to have a total expenditure budget of £487m in 2009-10.

The council said the amount of funding from Government, due to be announced later this week, was expected to be in line with previous figures as part of the three-year grant settlement.

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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