Waveney/Suffolk Coastal: Council tax frozen but ‘big challenges’ ahead
- Credit: Contributed
COUNCIL tax has been frozen in Waveney and Suffolk Coastal for the third consecutive year despite warnings of big budget challenges to come.
District leaders Colin Law and Ray Herring said both councils were prepared for the impact of further reductions in government funding as they announced there would be no extra charge for ratepayers over the next 12 months.
The decision means that, from April, residents in an average band D property will continue to pay £147.51 for the district council element of their precept in Waveney and £149.40 in Suffolk Coastal. In return for freezing rates, the councils will again receive a government grant equivalent to a 1% rise.
The announcements were made as this year’s budgets were presented amid gloomy predictions that the austerity period in the public sector was forecast to continue until at least 2017/18.
Mr Law said: “Having faced a considerable deficit earlier in the year, to present a balanced budget is nothing short of remarkable and a testament to the tireless work of councillors and officers in difficult conditions.
“Additionally, I am delighted that we will not be adding to our residents’ burden this year by increasing council tax.
“Our sound planning means that our communities can look forward to another year of good services as part of a continued commitment to improving the lives and wellbeing of Waveney residents, visitors and businesses.”
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Both Mr Law and Mr Herring have warned that the councils would have to rise to even bigger challenges as changes are made to the funding stream and the new Business Rate Retention Scheme is introduced as an incentive for councils to focus efforts on creating economic growth.
Waveney faces a budget gap of £1.8 million in 2014/15, rising to £4.5 million in the following year, while Suffolk Coastal will look for savings of £1.9m, rising to £4.3m by 2016/17.
Mr Law said it was essential for local government to “take the initiative and be bold”. He added: “Under the circumstances it is pretty amazing that we are in such a good position right now.
“However we are already planning for the impact of further reductions in funding we receive and the changes to the way we are financed.
Mr Herring said Suffolk Coastal’s priority was still to provide services required by the community. He added: “We have pioneered shared working with Waveney which has driven down our two councils’ costs by over £7m.
“These remain tough times and we have to continue our drive to ensure we are working as efficiently and business-like as possible.”