‘Give us back our money’ plea to borough during tax freeze vote

St Edmundsbury were accused of granting the Theatre Royal's wishes but not Haverhill's
St Edmundsbury were accused of granting the Theatre Royal's wishes but not Haverhill's
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Council tax was frozen again in St Edmundsbury in spite of Haverhill councillors claiming the council was taking cash from their town.

In a last minute rebellion, Haverhill councillors, with one exception, accused St Edmundsbury Borough Council of concentrating too much on Bury St Edmunds and refusing to pass on Council Tax Support Grant to town and parish councils it was intended for.

At the beginning of the meeting Haverhill’s town clerk Will Austin used the public part of the meeting to produce Government spreadsheets showing the council is receiving £166,000 in support grant. He said Breckland had admitted it should pass on the money. He said afterwards that he calculated Haverhill should get £112,000.

Portfolio holder David Ray said the borough faced a 23 per cent reduction in government cash, but he added: “We’ve got a balanced budget and the authority remains debt free.

“In five of the last six years there has been no increase in council tax. However, that comes with a health warning. We are falling behind because of inflation.”

But Haverhill Labour councillor Maureen Byrne opened the attack: “It’s nonsense to say we don’t know how much government is giving us.

“It’s in black and white how much we’re getting to pass on to towns and parishes.”

She called for it to be ‘reinstated in full’.

Gordon Cox, UKIP councillor for Haverhill east, said he would not back the budget because it ‘penalised people on benefits by making them pay 8.5 per cent’ on council tax and pushed too much money towards Bury.

He said Bury’s Victory Sports Ground, Theatre Royal and Smith’s Row Art Gallery had received subsidies totalling £150,985 while Haverhill’s grant was being cut by almost £129,000 over four years.

But Stefan Oliver, from Bury, said: “It’s an accident of geography that the sites that take this money are in Bury. Were we able to move the cricket ground to some other place, we might, but it’s here.

“It’s in Bury St Edmunds but it’s for everyone in the borough.”

Jeremy Farling, Haverhill Conservative, backed the budget: “This council does a lot for Haverhill. I’m proud to have been involved in the investment of millions and millions of pounds in Haverhill.”

Cllr Ray said: “We take looking after all the people in this borough very seriously. There’s been a large investment in Haverhill by the council. What’s been presented to this council this evening has been pretty one sided.”

He said he will ask officers to produce a list of where investment has been made and the income it has produced.

The council voted 31 in favour of the budget and seven against, with one abstention.