Families face financial strain

FAMILIES across Suffolk will be preparing to dig deep today following a fresh cost of living increase in the form of a 3.75 per cent increase in council tax.

FAMILIES across Suffolk will be preparing to dig deep today following a fresh cost of living increase in the form of a 3.75 per cent increase in council tax.

The rise, announced by Suffolk County Council, is below the national average of 4pc but comes on the back of recent increases in the cost of gas, electricity, food and petrol.

With costs across the board spiralling, many families will be left facing combined increases running into hundreds of pounds this year.

In addition to council tax increases, annual food inflation climbed to 7.4pc this month, gas and electricity bills are being hiked by up to 17pc and the cost of petrol has soared past the £1 barrier.

One Ipswich family particularly hard hit are the Hammonds of Temple Road, Bixley, who estimate they will pay a staggering £300 more a month than in the recent past.

Emma Hammond, 33, who lives with her husband Chris, 35, and the couple's three young children, said the family is already shelling out more than £50 extra on the weekly shop.

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When combined with utility increases, the cost of filling up a tank and the latest council tax increase, their additional spend could top £3,500 a year.

She said: “Our weekly shop used to be £90 but the last two weeks it has been £150. “I wouldn't say we have been extravagant but things are 10p more expensive here and there and it all adds up.

“The cost of petrol has just rocketed and I think the council tax increase is disgusting.

“We don't get anything extra for it. “They now empty the bins every two weeks but they want to charge you more.”

“I'm fortunate in a sense because before I had the children I had quite a well-paid job.

“I can imagine a lot of family's wages won't increase to match costs though.

“We will have to cut down on extra bits that we buy each month and think a bit more before we get things.”

Are you concerned by rising prices? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Weekly shop - was £90, now £150 £3,120 a year extra

Gas and electricity - currently £36.50 a month combined, set to increase to about £42 £65.76 a year extra

Petrol - two cars costing £105 a month to fill - now £135 a month £360 a year extra

Council tax - band C house - did cost £1,299 - likely to rise to around £1,344 £45 a year extra

Total £3,590 a year

COUNTY chiefs have today said they kept the council tax increase as low as possible in raising the cost by 3.75 per cent.

The increase, which will come into effect for the financial year beginning in April, is below the expected average increase across the UK of four per cent.

The 3.75 pc rise will see the county element of council tax bills for a band B home - the most numerous in Ipswich - increase by about £30 a year.

A band D home, the average dwelling according to the government, will increase by about £39.

Jeremy Pembroke, leader of Suffolk County Council, said a better than expected government grant has allowed the authority to pass on a relatively low increase to householders in the county.

Meanwhile an additional £7million is to be ploughed into services, with much of the money being used to cover predicted cuts that were proposed prior to the settlement being announced.

Included in this a “one-off” injection of £2.5million will be added to the county's roads maintenance budget, while £1million will go to subsidised public transport and £2.3million

On adult services including home care.

Mr Pembroke said: “Deciding where to spend the money means we had to make some tough decisions and as always, we listened to your views to decide where the money would be best spent.

“You asked us to keep the council tax as low as possible while providing good value-for-money services.”

Today' announcement has been attacked by the opposition Labour Group as a “smoke and mirrors” budget.

Kevan Lim, Labour Lead for resources, finance and procurement, said: "This budget announces a higher than necessary council tax increase combined with continuing cuts in social care.

“Despite significant extra money from central government to help with social care demands, the conservative administration has only put back some of the cuts in social care.”

A better idea of council tax increases for Suffolk householders will emerge once borough or district, police authority and, in rural areas, parish council elements of the tax, have been added to the bill.

These figures are likely to be announced over the next month.