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Council tax increase for West Suffolk residents to bridge funding gap

Council tax in West Suffolk is to rise by nearly 3% from April, as plans are made to bridge a £1.4million funding gap.

West Suffolk Council unveiled its 2020/21 budget which proposes a rise of around £4.97 a year in its portion of the council tax bill for a Band D property.

The bill marks an extra 14p per month in the former St Edmundsbury area and 97p per month in the old Forest Heath boundary.

West Suffolk Council, which effectively formed as a merger of those two previous authorities in April last year, aims to bring those council tax levels in line within the next four years.

According to the council, it is in a sound financial position heading into 2020/21, which means it is able to make investment plans, but pressures on council budgets means there could be a £1.4m shortfall in four years time.

The authority plans to bridge that gap with the council tax increase, savings generated from new ways of working and income streams such as property investment.

Councillor Sarah Broughton, portfolio holder for resources and performance said: “West Suffolk is already seen nationally as leading the way in transforming services and a great place to live and invest in.

“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.

“No one wants to increase taxes but with the stopping of revenue grant and new homes bonus from the government,  councils are expected by parliament to meet this gap with council tax.

“That said the proposal is a rise of between 14p or 97p a month for a Band D property depending where you live.

“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 considered by cabinet next week before going to full council on February 25.

Among the planned investment this year is an overhaul of Brandon Leisure Centre, continuing work on the Western Way public services hub and electric refuse trucks.

According to the council, the merger has already created more than £4m in savings, with annual savings of around £800,000 per year helping reduce the impact of central government cuts on frontline services.

Suffolk County Council has already announced its planned 4% council tax increase from April, equating to around £40 a year more for a Band B home.

By Jason Noble, Local Democracry Reporting Service

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