Council votes for first tax rise in six years

West Suffolk House ENGANL00120130105142248
West Suffolk House ENGANL00120130105142248

St Edmundbury Borough Council is increasing council tax for the first time in six years despite a last-minute attempt to amend the plans.

The full council met on Tuesday to vote on the budget which will see a tax rise on band D properties from £175.23 to 178.65 a year, an increase of 1.95 percent.

Cllr David Nettleton launched a late attempt at changing the plans, arguing an increase to £176.40 would not hit residents as hard.

Cllr Bob Cockle backed his amendment, saying although the council’s tax rise was small, it would still have an impact when accumulated over time.

“People have to try to understand for some people that is quite some money,” he said.

But the amendment was voted down and the cabinet’s recommended increase approved with 38 of 43 councillors voting to accept it.

Cllr Ian Houlder, cabinet member for resources and performance, said it was only through the hard work of officers, and careful management of finances, that the council had been able to keep the tax freeze for so long.

“The financial pressures continue to increase and we are faced with a choice,” he said. “We either cut services or ask people to pay a little bit more.

“Very few people want to see a rise in council tax, but the Government has made very clear the services should be funded locally and we need the council tax rise to offset this.

“When people realise how little people do pay for band D they are quite often surprised, especially when you see the investment that has added tremendously to our quality of life.”

Cllr Paul Hopfensperger said: “We are talking about £3.42 per year. We are not talking vast amounts of money.

“I fully support the budget because we have to – that is the situation we are in.”

Cllr Tony Brown was concerned about how much money Forest Heath, which shares staff with St Edmundsbury, would receive, arguing one should not be subsidising the other.

But Cllr John Griffiths guaranteed there would be no cross-subsidy between councils.

He said: “I think we have done a huge job to make sure we have preserved the most important services and improved them where we can.

“We were the first to freeze council tax in Suffolk. This was before it was fashionable and we have done this for the past six years.

“This council has looked forwards, looked long-term and that is what we are doing again.”