The big freeze

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PEOPLE living in St Edmundsbury look set to have their Council Tax frozen this year as the council has shaved more than £1.5 million from its budget.

Using money from its reserves, increasing parking costs and parking ticket fines, sponsorship for car parking bays and charging for coach parking are some of the measures proposed to save frontline services – while dealing with massive cuts in its Government grant.

This is the second time in three years that St Edmundsbury has frozen Council Tax and this year it receives the equivalent of a 2.5 per cent Council Tax increase in grants from Central Government which is rewarding prudent councils.

A report to Cabinet next week shows the move is expected to boost income by £1.9 million.

Council leader Cllr John Griffiths said: “The bottom line is a Council Tax freeze for our residents. It has been more difficult with the reduction in Government grant.

“We continue to be a good performing, long-term thinking council and have managed to make significant savings through things like shared services and procurement savings without impacting on frontline services and the people of St Edmundsbury.”

The Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review and December’s financial settlement has meant that Government grant will fall from £7 million to £4.5 million over the next two years.

Wednesday’s cabinet will also hear that the council plans to use £88,000 from the estimated £2.6 million in its general reserves.

There will be increased parking charges and excess charge notices. New charges include parking at West Stow, charging for coach parking, an ice cream concession on the arc car park, and food concessions on Ram Meadow and Hardwick Heath.

New income is from advertising bill boards and bay sponsorship in car parks, serviced motor home bays at Ram Meadow, a car wash franchise on the arc and multi-storey car park, vending drinks machines in the multi-storey and underground car parks, car boot sales on St Andrews Street South car park, and tendering concessions for parks.

The £12.12million budget will be finally agreed by full council on March 1.