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Ipswich: 9p a week council tax rise approved while opposition Tories are divided on plans for alternative budget

PUBLISHED: 20:04 26 February 2014 | UPDATED: 11:01 27 February 2014

Conservative group leader Chris Stewart.

Conservative group leader Chris Stewart.

Archant

Ipswich council voted to put up its element of council tax by fractionally under 2% during a budget debate which saw the small Conservative opposition split over its own amendment.

The Labour-run authority proposed the budget which will see council tax bills for occupiers of a Band B house – the most numerous in the borough – rise by 9p a week.

However Tory leader Chris Stewart put forward an alternative budget that would have seen £1 million taken from reserves and a further £90,000 raised from increasing the number of shows at the Regent theatre allowing a council tax freeze, investment in filling potholes, and encouraging new national retailers to come to the town.

Mr Stewart said: “At a time when we are frequently being reminded of the financial pressure on hard working families, it seems rather off message for the Ipswich Labour administration to be proposing to raise the rate of council tax.”

However his message did not go down well with his predecessor as group leader, John Carnall, or colleagues George Debman and Kym Stroet who all abstained when the amendment was put to the vote.

Council leader David Ellesmere, whose Labour group has an overwhelming majority on the council, said the amendment was flawed in many ways.

“There are fewer shows at the Regent, but that is because there will be work there from May until August putting in new air conditioning and heating. It’s not available then.

“The potholes are the responsibility of the county council and they have shown no wish to co-operate with the borough since they took back the contract to maintain the roads in the town from us last year!”

Presenting the budget proposals, Mr Ellesmere said the council was continuing to face serious cuts in government funding. Since 2010 the grant to the council had fallen by 42% – a total of £5 million.

“Despite this, we have built the first council houses in a generation, we are about to start work on more than 100 homes in Bader Close and we are looking at building 300 council homes over the next three years.”

The borough was determined to protect services, and the budget would ensure it could continue to support people and businesses in the town.

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