Fears over tax rises

HOUSEHOLDERS in Suffolk could see their council tax bills increase by more than £100 a year if government threats to rein in rises to local authorities are followed through, an MP warned today.

HOUSEHOLDERS in Suffolk could see their council tax bills increase by more than £100 a year if government threats to rein in rises to local authorities are followed through, an MP warned today.

Bury St Edmunds Tory MP David Ruffley - whose constituency includes Needham Market and Stowmarket - warned that the rise could be on the cards because the government doesn't have to worry about an impending general election.

This week the Local Government Association (LGA) warned that a £2.2 billion shortfall in the Treasury's finance to councils could force a 10 per cent hike in council tax bills.

That would mean council bills for a Band B property in Ipswich - most properties in the town fall into that band - would go up by £105 a year.

Band D properties in Ipswich - the standard set as an average by the government - would go up by £135 a year.

In Suffolk Coastal district Band D properties would go up by £123, and in Mid Suffolk and Babergh the increase would be £124.

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Mr Ruffley said: “Gordon Brown and the Labour Government have developed a penchant for pushing up council tax bills after a general election.

“In the April prior to the 2001 General Election there was an increase in bills of 6.4 percent, but April 2002 and April 2003 saw much bigger increases of 8.3 percent and 12.9 percent respectively.”

Ipswich Labour MP Chris Mole disputed the LGA figure and Mr Ruffley's analysis of it.

He said: “We will know what the government's settlement with local authorities is by the end of the month - but I was aghast when I saw the LGA figures yesterday.

“Only a few weeks ago they were talking about a £1.5 billion gap - and the government feels that the gap is no more than £700 million.

“There were talks between the government and LGA leaders yesterday, and they are all working very hard to eliminate this £700 million gap altogether before the settlement is published.

“I don't think all this talk of a 10 pc council tax rise is realistic in any way.”

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