March 12 2014 Latest news:
Monday, January 20, 2014
Suffolk’s most expensive third-tier council has insisted it is good value for money after figures revealed it was among the most expensive in the country.
Stats from the Department for Communities and Local Government show the third level of Suffolk’s democracy controls £10million of public money, with council budgets ranging from £100 to three quarters of a million.
Sudbury Town Council charges more than any other in Suffolk, with its average Band D price of £139.22 the 63rd-highest in the whole country, and it agreed to a 1.95% precept rise for next year at its meeting on Tuesday.
However, councillor Oliver Forder, chairman of the council’s finance committee, said the town got what it paid for.
He said: “You only need to come to Sudbury to see that it is an extremely well-maintained town. I’m confident that we provide extremely good value for money and we provide an extremely large range of services.
“What we’re seeing is the localism agenda, together with the very substantial squeeze of both the district and county councils, is meaning that town, and no doubt parish, councils are being asked to take on more and more responsibility, or we’ll see those services disappear.”
Sudbury Town Council employs 14 staff, including those on its successful community warden scheme, and has taken on other services from the borough and county council after consultation with the electorate.
Shona Bendix, chief executive of the Suffolk Association of Local Councils, said: “Local councils are having to pick up the pieces where other tiers of local government have decided that they can no longer afford services and facilities.
“Government has given some very confusing messages to local councils, claiming they are the heart of their ‘localism’ initiative and that local people should be freed from central bureaucracy and control, and yet for the first time in history subjugating town and parish council finances to financial controls from central Government and other tiers of local government.
“How is it possible to have blanket concepts in Government about what is acceptable in a small rural village in Suffolk?”
The town council with the biggest overall budget was Haverhill, which has also taken on activities that used to be done by the borough council, such as running Haverhill Arts Centre.
Clerk Will Austin said: “We’re very pleased to control that locally, but that does mean there’s a cost. We’re willing to take on the local control as much as we possibly can - we’d rather services in Haverhill were controlled by people in Haverhill rather than people in Bury St Edmunds.
“Whilst Haverhill residents benefit from the community events we stage and our running the Haverhill Arts Centre, the fact we’ve taken on this service hasn’t resulted in a saving in payments to the borough council. People in Haverhill are, in effect, paying for services they’re not getting.
“The question is not why does Haverhill Town Council cost money to local residents, but why is it the Haverhill residents are paying the same amount to other councils and not getting the same deal?”