Ipswich: Council tax bills set for 1.9% increase as authority looks to ‘maintain front-line services’

David Ellesmere

David Ellesmere

Ipswich council’s share of council tax bills is set to increase by fractionally under 2% in April.

The Labour-controlled borough is set to put up its element of council tax in a bid to maintain front-line services and build more council homes.

The increase will work out at about 9p (or £4.70 a year) a week for a Band B property – the most numerous in the town – which works out at an overall increase of just under 0.4%. The county council and Police and Crime Commissioner have already said they will not increase council tax bills.

There is a chance the rise could be lower. Secretary of State for Local Government Eric Pickles has not yet decided what the threshold should be for local authorities to have to have a referendum before they put up council tax bills.

Borough leader David Ellesmere said if the threshold was lower, the rise would have to be reduced: “We would not be able to justify the cost of holding a referendum across the borough.

“If Mr Pickles decides the threshold is 1.5% we will lower our rise, but that will mean some of our services will come under more of a threat in future years.”

Mr Ellesmere said that a 1.99% council tax increase would bring in about £220,000 extra to the borough – but it was facing a grant cut of £1.3 million this year and a further £1.3 million cut in 2015.

He said the council was proud of what it had achieved over recent years, and had done much to become more efficient.

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The “living wage” had been introduced for council employees, and it was planned to extend this was being extended to council contractors (mainly cleaners).

It was also planning to increase the pay rates for apprentices.

Many council budgets have been frozen rather than increased in line with inflation, and reorganisation of the refuse collection service – due to be introduced in April – would save a further £180,000.

He said: “There have been some tough decisions, but we feel if the town is to develop we need to ask for a small increase.

“We want to improve support cor community and arts bodies – and to boost our events programme. These bring in millions of pounds to the town and help to make Ipswich a better place to live in.”

The council tax rise comes just after the borough controversially voted to put up its council rents by 5.5%, nearly three times the rate of inflation.

The rise did not impress the town’s Conservative MP Ben Gummer. He said: “To say I am disappointed by this is an understatement.

“The borough has two major elements of personal expenditure within its power: Council Tax, which affects everybody, and council house rents, which affect thousands across the town.

“This year, as last year, they are putting both up. They can talk all they want about the cost of living but on the two numbers they can affect, they have done all they can to make it harder for local people.

“Council Tax in Ipswich is already amongst the highest in the country: it should be going down, not up. Other councils, including Labour councils, have frozen council tax, as has the Conservative County Council and Police Commissioner.

“I implore them to look again and do what they can to lighten the load on people’s pockets.’

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