Ipswich Borough Council agrees savings plan amid £23m budget gap

Ipswich Borough Council

Grafton House, the HQ of Ipswich Borough Council - Credit: jason Noble

A series of savings have been agreed by Ipswich Borough Council to offset the impact of inflation. 

The proposals include an increase in council tax on empty homes, an end to the production of The Angle newspaper and removal of face-to-face customer service from the town hall. 

They were approved unanimously in a meeting of the council on Tuesday and add further savings to the four-year financial plan agreed in February. 

Labour councillor Martin Cook said: “We need to take action now because inflationary pressure is happening now. 

“Since we agreed the medium-term financial plan in February, the government’s inflation forecasts have more than doubled. It’s now anticipated that there could be 9.1% inflation over the year, according to the ONS. 

“That means we now have a predicted extra cost of £6.4 million. When added to the gap expected in February, this leaves a total budget gap of £23 million.

“This is not something we can just leave until the next budget cycle in February because we will have missed the opportunity to take action at the right time if we do that.

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“We have not made any proposals that will hit Ipswich people in the pocket.  

“We are keeping things like the free brown bin scheme and the young person’s Summer Holiday iCard, which I think is one of the most generous and loved such initiatives in the country.” 

The Summer Holiday iCard was introduced in 2018, and provides free activities during the summer holidays for children aged 5 to 16 who live or go to school in Ipswich. 

The planned saving methods include: 

  • Increasing council tax on empty homes.
  • Ceasing production of The Angle newspaper, which is published by the council.
  • Moving face-to-face customer services provision from the town hall and letting the customer service space commercially.
  • Replacing community cash grants (annual grants for organisations supporting the community) with three-year awards. 
  • Returning the management of Northgate Sports Centre to Suffolk County Council. 
  • Selling land and development sites. 
  • Ending maintenance of highway verges on behalf of the Suffolk County Council, which has responsibility over this. 

No decision has been made on where customer service provision in the town hall will be moved to.

Conservative leader Ian Fisher was “pleased” with the changes, but questioned why the decision to make them was left until now when, he suggested, savings have been needed for a number of years.