Now surprises in Ipswich tax bills

NEW figures have been published this week showing that once again council tax bills in Ipswich for a Band D property are higher than anywhere else in Suffolk.

NEW figures have been published this week showing that once again council tax bills in Ipswich for a Band D property are higher than anywhere else in Suffolk.

I'm not surprised - but what never ceases to amaze me is that there are many people across the county who find this so shocking.

There are many reasons for this, but if you look at the statistics you will find most households in Ipswich pay less for their services than households elsewhere in the county.

The reason is quite simple and obvious - but one which seems to totally escape the statisticians when they come up with facts and figures like this.

The fact is homes in Ipswich are smaller than those in rural districts, on average that is.

In villages and country towns there is more space to build big detached homes with gardens than there is in the compact town.

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Of course that doesn't mean there aren't some large homes in Ipswich - anyone who has driven along Valley Road, Westerfield Road, or Tuddenham Road will know there are some impressive houses in the town.

But on average homes in Ipswich, on the estates, in the traditional residential streets, and in the town centre itself, are considerably smaller than those in the countryside.

The most common council tax band in Ipswich, with 37 per cent of the homes, is Band B. It only just pips Band A, with 31pc, into second place. The government's “average” - Band D - accounts for only seven pc of the homes in the borough.

In Ipswich the two lowest bands account for 68 pc of the homes. In Suffolk Coastal the bottom two bands account for 37pc of the homes, and the picture is similar in other districts across the county.

It costs the same to provide council services to a family with two adults and two children living in a three-bedroomed semi on Chantry as it does to a family of the same size living in a four-bedroomed detached home on Grange Farm in Kesgrave.

So the money has to come from somewhere - which means that individual bands in Ipswich are always likely to be slightly higher.

However the amount paid by the “average” household in the town will be less because the average household is smaller.

What is very telling across the board, though, is the fact that the band which the government and local authorities take as the “standard” is far from being average in Suffolk.

All council tax bands are calculated as a proportion of Band D which is always quoted as the “average.”

It is quite clear that in Suffolk Band D properties are not average - they are larger homes than most people in the county can ever dream of living in.

Of course there is another reason why Ipswich pays higher council tax bills - it's because the town subsidises services that are enjoyed by the rest of the county.

You won't find museums as impressive as those in Ipswich run by any other councils in Suffolk - yet people from outside the borough can visit them for free.

How many people from outside Ipswich go to shows at the Regent (subsidised solely by the borough) or enjoy walking or picnicking in Christchurch Park during a visit to the town?

How many people from Kesgrave, Pinewood, or Claydon visit Crown Pools or the town's sports centres - all subsidised by the council taxpayers of Ipswich?

Table of percentage of homes in each council tax band:

Ipswich Suffolk Coastal Babergh Mid Suffolk

Band A 30.9 13 11.5 12.5

Band B 37.2 24 29.5 27.2

Band C 19 19.7 20.6 21.9

Band D 7.1 18.7 18 16.1

Band E 3.6 12.8 10.4 11.8

Band F 1.6 6.7 5.4 6.4

Band G 0.6 3.8 4.1 3.7

Band H 0.001 0.3 0.5 0.3

WE are now only weeks away from the most significant elections in this country since 2005 as district, borough, and parish councils across the county go to the polls once again.

In Ipswich, of course, just a third of the council is up for election and the chance of a change in power is remote.

Parish and town councils tend not to be political bodies - except in one or two large places like Felixstowe, Hadleigh, Stowmarket, or Woodbridge.

But in these parishes the politics (with a small p) can be even more personal, even more vicious than it is in the House of Commons!

If you want to join in with all that fun and games, now is your chance to get yourself nominated in your own parish.

One thing's certain - it's very different from the parish council in the Vicar of Dibley!

I'M told things are very tense at the moment at the borough's headquarters in Grafton House as bosses wait to hear the result of their application for unitary status.

One of my contacts laments the fact there have been no real leaks from Whitehall to give any indication of whether Ipswich will be on the shortlist to take over all council services in the area.

“One day I think we'll get it, the next I think it's all too quiet and we'll be overlooked. It's a real rollercoaster of emotions,” one senior council officer told me.

And who said council work was unexciting?