Cuts necessary to avoid council tax rise

HAVING cut £1 million from its budget this year, Suffolk Coastal is faced with needing to save £1.3m in the next three years to avoid big council tax rises.

HAVING cut £1 million from its budget this year, Suffolk Coastal is faced with needing to save £1.3m in the next three years to avoid big council tax rises.

Council chiefs admitted today that some changes to how services are provided will be noticed in the months ahead – and although they are still committed to quality, it is becoming "increasing impossible" to maintain service levels.

The authority will finalise its share of the council tax on February 24, but its cabinet has recommended a 4.95 per cent rise this year.

It will mean a rise of about 10 pence a week on the average Band C tax bill for Suffolk Coastal. The Band D charge would be £125.82.

Council leader Ray Herring said: "I would congratulate employees at all levels of the council who have helped identify savings that can be achieved without any major impact on our services.

"The depressing news is that we need to save £1.3 million more by 2008 unless we start getting the financial support from the government this district deserves.

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"The simple facts are that our costs are rising by £1.3 million during the coming year in areas that we cannot control, such as national pay awards, inflation, the extra duties placed on us by the government and the need to meet national recycling targets.

"All we are getting from the government is an extra £250,000!

"We have been working hard to make our services more efficient and effective, but it is likely some people may notice changes in how some of our services are provided in coming months.

"It is becoming increasingly impossible for us to maintain all our service levels and keep the council tax to a relatively affordable level."

The council's budget will be £12.8m, £650,000 higher than last year, of which £6.8m comes from government grants, including redistributed business rates.

One of the ways of helping the budget has been to increase prices for services – which will raise an extra £360,000 next year.

"We have had to consider proposals with impacts on virtually all of our services, but I think we have reached as fair a budget as we can," said Mr Herring.

"Most of our charges are going up in line with inflation, while some, such as car parking, are not going up at all. However, some of our services cost less than other councils and we have started to reconsider these in the light of service pressures."