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West Suffolk council tax to rise to 'fill funding gap of £1.4 million'

A district council’s share of council tax is set to rise by almost three per cent as it prepares to fill a £1.4 million hole in its budget.

West Suffolk Council is proposing a £4.97 rise in council tax for Band D properties as part of its 2020/21 budget plans – the equivalent to an extra 14p per month for households in the former St Edmundsbury area and 97p per month for those in the former Forest Heath.

The council is aiming to harmonise the council tax in both areas by April 2022 – four years sooner than initially planned.

West Suffolk House. Picture by Mecha Morton
West Suffolk House. Picture by Mecha Morton

A council spokesman said the new budget plans left the council in a ‘sound financial position’ but, due to a reduction in Government funding through the Revenue Support Grant and New Homes Bonus and the fact that council tax only makes up 20 per cent of its income, the council is facing a funding gap in following years which will rise to £1.4 million by 2024.

The council hopes to fill this gap by increasing council tax and generating savings through avenues such as property investment.

Cllr Sarah Broughton, portfolio holder for resources and performance, said: “No one wants to increase taxes but with the stopping of the revenue grant and new homes bonus from Government, councils are expected by parliament to meet the gap with council tax.”

She added: “This rise means that services can continue into the future without some of the harsher measures seen elsewhere in the country.”

The budget will be discussed by cabinet on Tuesday, with any recommendations made due to go before full council on February 25.

Within its budget, the council has planned for an upgrade of Brandon Leisure Centre as well as continuing its investment in renewable energy sources, its parks and open spaces, and its work to reduce homelessness.

“West Suffolk is already seen nationally as leading the way in transforming services and a great place to live and invest in,” said Cllr Broughton. “To make sure we continue into the future to deliver the initiatives and services that help our communities and businesses prosper we must build on the stable financial situation we have built.”

She added: “I think we are in a strong financial position and that is down to decisions we made previously.”

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