St Edmundsbury Borough Council prepares for £1.5 million spending cuts

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West Suffolk House ENGANL00120130105142248
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Councillors in Bury St Edmunds have released more detailed plans to plug a £1.5 million budget gap in 2015/16.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council is taking a 48 per cent cut in its central Government grant between 2014 and 2016, with a raft of further spending cuts planned this year.

But councillors have hinted they wish the borough to be independent of one Government funding pot, the Revenue Support Grant, by 2020.

Sara Mildmay-White, deputy leader of St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said: “We are committed to a regime of financial discipline.

“Austerity has modernised us. Our approach is now about questioning everything the council does – do the public value it, could someone else do it, or do we need it at all?”

David Ray, portfolio holder for resources, said: “Life financially is not easy for people and we want to help them by not increasing their bills and providing the services they want more efficiently.”

However, some councillors have spoken out in opposition to the proposed cuts.

Green Party councillor Julia Wakelam said: “The private sector cannot do all the council does reliably or affordably.

“We are storing up problems for the future.”

Independent councillor David Nettleton said: “Sometimes I think we’re too conservative about budgeting.

“If we’re collecting money we shouldn’t just stick it all in the bank. We should look at spending some reserves and investing in things people need and want.”

The council, which currently has £10.97 million in earmarked reserves, hopes to save £128,000 by making its shared services scheme with Forest Heath District Council more efficient.

It plans to freeze Council Tax again in 2015/16, for the sixth time in seven years.

From April 1, the business rate relief for small businesses will rise from £1,000 to £1,500 annually.

Councillors’ locality budgets, £2,500 for them to invest in their local community, will continue into 2015/16.

The council has also announced its intention to put £3 million toward a £15 million Eastern Relief Road, in Bury.

Tenders are still being invted for the town’s bus station information building.

The recommendations are to be discussed at a meeting of the borough council’s cabinet on Tuesday.