Council confirms tax freeze pledge

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The county council has voted to freeze council tax for the fifth consecutive year after identifying £38million in savings.

The budget for the next financial year was accepted by the full council on Thursday, with 37 votes in favour and 31 votes against.

The budget honours council leader Mark Bee’s 2010 pledge to freeze council tax despite the Government’s ongoing deficit reduction programme, from which there is a £120milllion shortfall that will be addressed over the next three years.

Jenny Antill, county councillor for Cosford and cabinet member for resource management, said the council has a responsibility to ensure tax payers’ money is spent where it is needed most.

“These are incredibly testing times for local government,” she said.

“In the face of unprecedented cuts to our revenue support grant from central government, we need to ensure that frontline services at Suffolk County Council are protected as far as possible.”

She said the council had developed a range of transformation programmes which will allow the authority to do more with less money over the next three years.

She added: “It is not certain that this will be sufficient to fill the estimated budget shortfall and, in that case, some hard choices will need to be made.

“We do, however, have a clear strategy for the future and are committed to remaining open and transparent in our decision making.”

A spokesman for the council said the saving of £38.2million within the next financial year will make the council a leaner and more focused organisation.

The “transformative programmes”, where the bulk of the savings have been identified, spreads across council departments, including children and young people’s services, health and social care and resource management.

Savings will also be made by reducing previous contingency budgets, set aside for major projects, as well as making other budgetary savings from within service areas.