Leader of council defends £750k Bury St Edmunds Apex subsidy saying it costs more to run Abbey Gardens and country parks.

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The leader of a council has defended the £750,000 a year Apex subsidy, saying it costs more to run the Abbey Gardens and its country parks.

Cllr John Griffiths was speaking after Cllr David Nettleton said St Edmundsbury Borough Council will face increased budget costs year on year and should look to lease the ‘toxic Apex’ to another operator.

The suggestion was quickly shot down by several councillors including Cllr Julia Wakelam who defended investment in the arts.

“It is not a subsidy, it is an investment. We are investing in people’s enjoyment of life. It is not all about money,” she said.

Cllr David Ray, portfolio holder for resources said The Apex is worth £5million a year to the local economy

“We are making savings next year of about £30,000 on the costs of The Apex.

“It has only been running for two years. It has got an outstanding reputation.

“Hopefully it will build on that and cut costs.

“We need to provide attractions and The Apex is one of these,” Cllr Ray said.

Cllr Griffiths meanwhile took a swipe at Cllr Nettleton suggesting more progress on The Apex will be made when the May Suffolk County Council elections, for which Cllr Nettleton is standing, are out the way.

Tuesday night’s meeting also saw councillors rubber stamp budget proposals.

There was some argument over the reduction of a Council Tax discount on second homes, which will drop from 10 per cent to five per cent.

“‘Icannot see any possible justification for not getting rid entirely of the second home discount,” said Cllr Wakelam.

But Cllr Ray said it is only through people applying for the discount that it is able to tell how many second homes there are.

“If we didn’t offer a discount we wouldn’t have a clue how many second homes there are,” said Cllr Ray.

He also told how the council will be under pressure to find more than £2 million in further savings, over the next three years.

“What we need to do is find the next new big ideal,” Cllr Ray said.“The pressure will continue.”

He also revealed that while Suffolk County Council, St Edmundsbury and Suffolk Police had frozen Council Tax, 28 parishes had increased their precept, while 12 had cut it, meaning some will pay slightly less than last year.

- It costs more than £1.1m a year for the council to run the Abbey Garden, West Stow Country Park, Nowton Park, Clare Park and East Town Park in Haverhill.