Suffolk residents set for first significant council tax rise of the decade

Leader of Suffolk County Council Colin Noble at Endeavour House in Ipswich.

Leader of Suffolk County Council Colin Noble at Endeavour House in Ipswich.

Council tax payers across Suffolk are facing an increase of about 2% county-wide after years of a near-freeze.

Just days after the county council’s cabinet confirmed it would increase its bills by 2% to help pay for wage rises for social care providers, it was confirmed that police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore would be putting up his precept by almost 2%.

Most district and borough councils will be putting their elements of council tax up by a similar proportion.

All this means that council tax bills across the county are likely to rise by between £20 and £40 a year depending on the size of your property.

The government sees Band D properties as the “average” figure, but in Suffolk the most numerous band for householders is Band B.

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Council tax bills in Suffolk Coastal are likely to go up by about £22 a year for Band B properties and by just under £29 a year for Band D properties. In St Edmundsbury the increases are likely to be about £23 for Band B and £30 for Band D.

They could be affected by increases to parish and town council precepts – Bury St Edmunds Town Council is planning to raise its bills for Band D properties by £9.90 a year.

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In Ipswich council tax bills are likely to rise by about £25 for Band B properties and £32 for Band D properties.

The rises are relatively large because the county council is increasing its precept by 2% – the first increase it has proposed since 2010/11. The county element makes up about 70% of the total bill. Some boroughs and districts have had small rises in recent years.

The winning Conservative group at Endeavour House had pledged to freeze council tax for four years when it was re-elected in 2013 – but this year the government made it clear that it expected councils to increase their rate by 2% to pay for increases to the minimum wage.

County council leader Colin Noble said the authority was probably approaching a “tipping point” where small council tax increases would once again become the norm to ensure that savings did not have to bite too much harder.

Mr Noble, who has delighted in reminding his supporters and opponents that the previous Labour-led council put up council tax by 18% in 2003, said it was now clear that the government was expecting councils to put up the tax takes by about 1.75%.

He said: “There has been a great deal of work over recent years to make local government more efficient, and there are now a lot more shared services between authorities.

“People remembered the huge rise which is why they elected the Conservatives into power – and have continued to elect the Conservatives since.

“They like the fact that we have frozen council tax for several years, but it could be that we are reaching the tipping point where people feel it is more important to pay a little more to safeguard services.”

He said the question of what to do about any council tax freeze pledge was regularly discussed at group meetings: “Every time we meet for our monthly awaydays now, one of the main questions is what we say about council tax in our next manifesto,” he said.

Labour opposition leader at the county council Sandy Martin said his group were opposed to many of the cuts being proposed by the administration, but did not advocate raising council tax rates.

He said the cuts could be reversed by taking money from reserves.

And he felt the council tax system needed to be reformed: “The fact is that if you live in a Band H eight-bedroomed mansion you are paying only three times what someone is paying in a tiny bedsit and I don’t think that is right.”

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