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Babergh council tax bill to rise again as district faces further funding cuts

Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich
Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich

Council tax in Babergh will rise by more than three per cent for the second year running, as the district faces further cuts in core funding from central government.

The district council approved the 2018/2019 budget on Tuesday evening, making what it described as “the tough decision” to increase Babergh’s portion of the council tax precept by 3.25 per cent – equivalent to an additional £5 per year for a band D household.

The budget, which is set to take effect from April 1, will see the largest homes pay an extra £10 annually, while the bill for the smallest homes will go up by £3.33, although the poorest residents will not have to pay more than five per cent of their bill under the authority’s council tax reduction scheme.

The council already put up its share of the precept by 3.4 per cent just last year, and it explained the increase was voted through again because core funding from the Government is continuing to fall, and will drop to zero by 2019/2020.

Peter Patrick, Babergh District Council’s cabinet member for finance, said: “It’s no secret that local government is facing a big financial challenge as central government funding is slowly withdrawn.

“As part of meeting that challenge, we need to raise our council tax by 3.25 per cent.

“This is not the whole story. In line with agreed strategy, we are generating significant investment income.

“Our major property investment vehicle, through which we will borrow to invest, should generate a regular income of approximately £1.1 million per annum, with other long-term investments providing a further £400,000.

“In addition, part of our response to our financial situation is transforming how we work while continuing to provide excellent services.

“Our move to Endeavour House has enabled a significant change in working practice.

“The use of IT, both internally and in communicating with our customers, has provided major efficiencies.

“This past year has seen other significant changes – the introduction of an effective cabinet system, adoption of an ambitious leisure strategy and work on a new housing strategy.

“We are determined to improve the supply of affordable homes and will use the proceeds of Right to Buy disposals to help fund new builds.

“We have also made great advances in designing a new local plan, and communities have been encouraged to develop neighbourhood plans, while our planning and development service has been overhauled and is achieving enhanced performance levels.

“Our proposals are bigger than simple changes in council tax.

“Through a whole range of measures, we are changing how we work and will continue to provide better value for money for our residents.”

The budget will also see a net increase of £2 per week on service charges for council housing tenants, which may be recoverable via housing benefits, depending on the circumstances.

Council house rents will decrease by one per cent, equal to an average drop in the cost of rent of 90 pence a week, while there will be no changes to sheltered housing utility charges or garage rents.

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