Job losses keep council tax down

REDUNDANCIES – with probably more to come – helped keep the council tax rise for families in Suffolk Coastal down to a 4.9 per cent increase this year.

REDUNDANCIES – with probably more to come – helped keep the council tax rise for families in Suffolk Coastal down to a 4.9 per cent increase this year.

Councillors slashed £1.14 million from their budget and raised another £452,000 from increasing charges to avoid having to axe services, it was revealed today.

But leaders of the district authority warned that they would have to do the same again next year as they attacked the government for making a "dreadful mess" of local government finances.

A Band D household in the district – which includes Felixstowe, Martlesham, Kesgrave, Woodbridge, and the Trimleys – will have to pay £119.88 to Suffolk Coastal this year, a rise of £5.58.

Together with the county council share, police authority, and town and parish council precepts, it will mean Band D households paying around £1,192.

Council leader Ray Herring said the government had given the council just £202,000 extra this year in grant.

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But price increases and pay awards alone amounted to £880,000, without extra duties imposed by central government.

"As you can see, £202,000 doesn't go very far to remotely deal with the cost of pay awards and price increases, much of which we don't have any control over, and that's before we put in new services or deal with statutory obligations government want us to shoulder," he said.

"We have made £1.14 million savings and that is almost unprecedented, and we have done our very best to ensure there is no direct effect on services.

"I cannot be quite as bullish as I have been in the past four years in protecting services because we have had to find savings and it has been increasingly difficult."

Savings included an efficiency drive which involved some senior posts being lost through redundancy and early retirement. A fresh review of management to streamline it was about to begin and he could not guarantee there would not be further job losses.

Generating extra income included a controversial decision to increase car parking charges, which it is hoped will generate an extra £200,000.

Mr Herring denied claims from Liberal Democrat John Kelso that the council was spending £800,000 a year on consultants. Some was being spent on outside expertise and there was a need to invest in new systems and ideas to save cash.

Deputy leader Andy Smith said the bottom line was that the council's services would cost an average household £120 this year – for having their bins emptied, parks and gardens, leisure centres, coast protection, environmental health and many other services – just £5 more than last year.

Liberal Democrat leader Christine Block feared the council would soon need to borrow to keep the tax low and felt many may prefer to pay a little more to see the authority take direct action to help provide decent housing.

n What do you think this year's tax rises – have councils done well? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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