Ipswich council plans 2% council tax rise for 2021/22

Staff are preparing to return to Grafton House. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Ipswich Borough Council is proposing a 2% council tax increase from April 2021 - Credit: Archant

A 2% council tax rise has been proposed by Ipswich Borough Council for its share of the council tax bill from April - but no further cuts are planned for the new financial year.

Ipswich Borough Council's executive on Tuesday night agreed to its 2021/22 budget proposals in which a 2% rise - the guideline rate set out by the government - was put forward, equivalent to 11p extra per week for taxpayers in Band B properties.

It follows two emergency budgets agreed by the executive in July and November as a result of the severe financial pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic, in which savings had to be found by closing the Profiles Waterfront gym, closing the Regent box office to make it a phone and online service only, reducing grass cutting by one cut per year, axing the Town Hall customer service desk and shutting the Tourist Information Centre.

Ipswich council leader David Ellesmere has urged people to stick to the coronavirus rules. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere, Labour - Credit: Charlotte Bond

However, Ipswich Borough Council's Labour leader David Ellesmere said that the difficult decisions already made meant no further cutbacks will be needed for the new financial year starting this April.

"Because we took necessary tough decisions in the two emergency budgets we believe there are now no new savings that we are required to make over the coming year," he said.

"That means important services can all be retained."

Martin Cook

Labour portfolio holder for finances at Ipswich Borough Council, Martin Cook - Credit: Archant

Portfolio holder for finance, Martin Cook, added: "What we can all hope is that this third lockdown is the last one and things will get gradually better from here on in.

"There is still some uncertainty about the future. We don't know quite what the post-pandemic environment is going to be like for quite a few of our income [streams], but certainly I am very proud that we have done what we needed to through this year to put ourselves on an even footing going forward.

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"If we hadn't taken action earlier, if we hadn't taken those tough decisions earlier, we would now be in a very difficult place, and facing making some genuine emergency decisions. We are not in that situation, but this is something we will have to review going forward."

The proposed budget means that services such as free iCards for youngsters during the summer holidays, support for bus services, and free brown bins will remain unaffected.

A final decision on the budget will be made by full council later this month.

Ipswich Conservative group leader Ian Fisher wants more staff to be allowed back to its Grafton Hous

Conservative group leader at Ipswich Borough Council, Ian Fisher - Credit: Archant

Latest finance data indicated that the Covid-19 pandemic, which had the double effect of increasing costs for the council in areas such as temporarily accommodating homeless people and reduced income from areas such as car parking, left it with a £16million impact.

Government support has plugged £10m of that, leaving £6m in savings to be found.

Ian Fisher, leader of the opposition Conservative group, questioned why more savings from unfilled vacancies and transitional vacancies - those between a member of staff leaving a job and a replacement starting - had not been prioritised over service cuts in the last two emergency budgets.

He added: "If they are as easy to achieve as they are made out to be and is not just a balancing figure, why wasn't this included in the November MTFP [Medium Term Financial Plan] instead of the really hard decision for people to lose their jobs and the service cuts, if they are as achievable as what we are making them out?"

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