Council Tax and rent increases proposed in Mid Suffolk 2020/21 draft budget
Mid Suffolk District Council is set to raise its element of the Council Tax by 1.66 per cent – with council house tenants also set to be hit with the highest rent rise possible.
The council’s administration has published the first draft of its budget for 2020/21, which proposes a 1.66 per cent council tax rise – £2.76 a year increase for a Band D property.
It also includes plans to raise council house rent by 2.7 per cent, the maximum allowable under Government rules.
That equates to an estimated £2.19 per week, while sheltered housing tenants will also face a £2 weekly increase on their bills, plus a 62p per week increase on utility bills specifically.
The council house rent increase follows four years of Government-planned reductions.
Other budget measures proposed include a £500,000 reserve to tackle climate issues, plans to bring empty properties into use more quickly, found savings of £2.7 million and continued investment in CIFCO, the property acquisition company owned by Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils.
Cllr John Whitehead, Mid Suffolk District Council Conservative cabinet member for finance, said: “Increasing Council Tax and rent is not a decision we take lightly, but the hard choices taken and prudent investments made over recent years have enabled us to propose a 2020/21 budget which protects and, in many cases, enhances our front-line services with only a modest increase in Council Tax – an increase which for yet another year is below the level of retail price inflation.
“This budget also allows us to earmark £500,000 to ensure funding is available for the recommendations that will come from our environment and climate change taskforce, helping us to achieve our ambition of being carbon neutral by 2030 and ensuring our finances are robust enough to meet the local and global challenges of the future.”
According to the council, the income from CIFCO property investments is around £1.4 million a year, meaning the council does not need to raise Council Tax further or make drastic service cuts.
However, concerns have been voiced that CIFCO's investments are largely outside Suffolk and include some retail units – an avenue that is increasingly risky.
Cllr Andrew Stringer, from the opposition Green group, said: “We are quite astounded to see resources being squirrelled away to mitigate against risks we have brought upon ourselves. We are looking to put forward alternative proposals, including ones which will address the climate worries we face.
“There aresome economic and social issues we would have hoped this budget would have addressed,”
Green councillor John Matthissen said the sheltered housing increases were 'quite harsh' on those residents.
The first draft is set to be discussed by the council’s cabinet on January 13, before then going to full council next month.
n Suffolk County Council has already announced its first draft of the budget, including a 3.99 per cent increase in Council Tax for 2020/21.
More by this authorJason Noble, Local Democracy Reporter