Officials determined to avoid the cap

OFFICIALS and senior councillors at county hall today remained determined to avoid tax capping when the budget is set next year.And this determination was backed by a warning that capping could threaten services to some of the most vulnerable people in Suffolk.

OFFICIALS and senior councillors at county hall today remained determined to avoid tax capping when the budget is set next year.

And this determination was backed by a warning that capping could threaten services to some of the most vulnerable people in Suffolk.

Council leader Bryony Rudkin today said the threat of capping had not been added into the budget process.

She spoke to The Evening Star after prime minister Tony Blair repeated his ministers' warnings that capping could be imposed if there were repeats of this year's massive increases in spring 2004.


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"You cannot budget for a capped council tax level – we are drawing up a budget that should come in well under the level that capping would be considered.

"We are consulting with people as widely as possible about what they would like to see happening, and it is good that so many responses have come in already," she said.

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"But you cannot look at producing a budget if council tax is capped at x per cent – we are doing all we can to avoid capping and are confident that it will not happen."

Last year's council tax increase was so high because the county needed to put more money into social services, especially those for elderly people and children.

Mrs Rudkin said this should be a one-off increase.

"We won't have a firm idea of the kind of rise we will be looking at next year until the government funding is announced in December.

"But it should not be anywhere near as high as it was this year – unless the government changes the formula," she said.

Deputy leader David Rowe, who is responsible for drawing up the budget, had warned that capping could lead to major cuts in services.

Mrs Rudkin said if the government formula changed and capping was forced on the council, officers would probably have to call in government experts to look at where cuts could be made.

"But we are doing everything to avoid that situation and I am confident it will not come to that," she said.

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