Borough plans to invest in Ipswich as it puts up council tax by nearly 3%
PUBLISHED: 06:01 30 January 2018
More help to ease homelessness, more action against drug gangs, cleaner streets, improvements to the entrance to the Waterfront... and better toilets at the Ipswich Regent.
They are all on Ipswich Borough Council’s “to do” list as it plans to put up its element of council tax bills by nearly 3% from April.
The tax rise is set to be confirmed by the council’s executive next week and will be formally adopted by the full council later in February.
While the council says the increase is needed to cover the cost of wage increases and to prevent cuts to services, it is also planning to invest in new services across the town.
A new homeless unit is to be opened for people who have nowhere to live. Most of it will be for homeless families – but there will be some provision for individuals who find themselves without a home.
The council plans to spend £500,000 a year tackling homelessness.
The council is to put a further £75,000 towards efforts to crack down on drugs gangs that have caused so much concern in the town.
It is to invest in three new road sweepers which should enable it to clean a wider area of the town centre – extending to the Waterfront and the area near Ipswich railway station.
Cuts that were planned to community grants in Ipswich from this April are to be reinstated – and organisations which receive regular funding from the borough are to be given three-year budgets so they can plan in advance.
The Regent Theatre’s toilets, bar areas and decoration in the foyers is to be improved.
Work is due to start on improving the entrance to the Waterfront between Stoke Bridge and Dance East with new paving.
The council has found a new base for the Families In Need (FIND) charity which operates Ipswich’s food bank – and is helping them develop it as a long-term centre.
It is preparing to submit a new Heritage Lottery Fund grant to refurbish Chantry Park after the success of bids for Christchurch and Holywells Parks, seeking support for a £4m-£5m restoration.
And the council wants to upgrade the town’s CCTV coverage, introducing new cameras linked by a wireless internet connection to improve their flexibility.
Investment good for development of town says leader Ellesmere
Ipswich Council’s Labour leader David Ellesmere said the increased element of council tax was necessary to prevent savage cuts to services.
But coupled to increased returns from the council’s investment strategy, it was enabling the borough to improve the town.
He said: “We share the concerns about homelessness and what we are doing should create places for a further 40 groups in our homeless families units.”
The council was also increasing the support it gave to poorest families – meaning the amount they have to pay for a Band B home will fall from £112 year to less than £70. It is a move that will cost other council tax payers £1 a year, but he felt few would grudge that support.
He said: “The money we are getting from our property investment is enabling us to make the town a better place to live – without it we would be looking are really serious service cuts that would hurt everyone.”
Conservatives raise concern over repeated increases
Conservative opposition members at the borough council have raised concerns about the authority’s regular council tax rises when those at Suffolk County Council had been frozen for seven years until recently.
Opposition leader Ian Fisher said: “It was probably to be expected but I think from a Conservative standpoint we would have tried to reduce it to the 2% we have had recently.
“I know the council has put their precept up but the county council has had seven years where it was frozen, whereas the borough council put up theirs year in year out.”
Mr Fisher also raised concerns over the subsidy being paid to Ipswich Buses, fearing that Ipswich taxpayers were “funding the routes that cannot pay for themselves”.
He said that the income Ipswich Buses generates would largely cover its costs, and would rather have seen a lesser council tax increase.