Tax rise likely in Forest Heath

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Forest Heath plans to turn to investments to boost income, but is still having to consider a 3.6 per cent increase in its Council Tax share.

The district council’s cabinet will next Tuesday consider recommending the council a Council Tax rise of £4.95 a year (41p a month) which it says will raise £87,000.

It would make Forest Heath’s share of the total tax bill for a Band D home to £142.38.

Like its West Suffolk partner St Edmundsbury, the council points out that the Government has ended the grant it used to make to councils who froze their tax.

In addition, the Government’s Revenue Support Grant, which made 16 per cent of the council’s income (£2.5 million) in 2013 will be zero by 2020.

If the two councils did nothing, then by 2019/20 between them they would face an annual shortfall of more than £3.3 million which would mean cutting funding for services by that amount.

James Waters, leader of Forest Heath, said: “For the past seven years Forest Heath has frozen its share of Council Tax but this year we are looking to put just over 40p a month more on your bill so we can continue to invest in your local communities.”

Stephen Edwards, cabinet member for resources, added: “We have to become more self-sufficient and one way to do that is to create more income locally which we can then invest in services.

“We are looking to invest significant sums in a range of projects over the next few years which will raise that income, cut costs wherever possible and work together with our communities to provide the services they really value.”

A spokesman said: “The councils have a shared Medium Term Financial Strategy which enables us to live within our means and sets us on a path of creating new income streams to make up for that lost funding.”

“Both Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury are committed to introducing new funds into the councils (through borrowing for robust business cases) to enable us to continue investing in our communities. Investing to save, investing to earn.”

Forest Heath’s investments so far include £500,000 in Omar Homes, in Brandon, helping to safeguard or create 355 jobs, and £14.4 million in a solar farm near Lakenheath, generating electricity and £300,000 annual income, after allowing for the repayment of the investment. 

Current capital investment plans 2017-2021 stand at £56 million, including £3 million in its housing company and £20 million ‘potential future investment opportunities’ in Forest Heath.