Low tax hike for south Suffolk

HOUSEHOLDERS in Babergh look set to face the smallest council tax increase in Suffolk in April.Bills for the district's element of council taxes are set to go up by just 2.

HOUSEHOLDERS in Babergh look set to face the smallest council tax increase in Suffolk in April.

Bills for the district's element of council taxes are set to go up by just 2.8 per cent.

When linked to the likely county increase of 4.5 pc, this should keep bills down.

The only fly in the ointment is Suffolk Police Authority, which is expected to put its element of council tax up considerably – possibly by a double figure amount.

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Babergh has spent several months examining and recalculating its spending plans and is set to recommend the 2.8 pc increase at its full council in February.

It would be a major surprise if the budget was rejected after so much work had been put in.

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Meanwhile the budget process at Suffolk County Council continues.

The actual budget – including the council tax level – will not be set until the end of February, but the first indications of a recommendation to the county's executive will be revealed next week.

However this week Labour councillors voted to recommend an increase of about 4.5 pc – and again it would be a major shock if this was rejected during its passage through the democratic process.

The lower-than-expected increase will be welcomed in Whitehall – ministers were anxious to ensure there were no further high tax rises after last year's rises provoked fury around the country.

Earlier this week Prime Minister Tony Blair told The Evening Star: "I sincerely hope Suffolk's council tax rise will be much lower than it was last year – after the settlement we gave the councils this year there will be no excuse if it is not!"

The police authority is to set its budget at the end of this month, and has still not decided on a number of options.

These will be debated at a full meeting in the light of a MORI survey on what the Suffolk public would like it to do over the next year.

However most people close to the committee expect its element of council tax bills to increase by a double digit percentage – although nowhere near last year's increase of 33 pc.

Meanwhile the Local Government Association, which represents councils from across the country, has recommended that there should be a shake-up of local taxes.

It wants to see existing council tax replaced with a raft of measures for local authorities to raise finance – including raising their own business rates, a form of local income tax, and a fairer council tax element.

N What do you think? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

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