Amidst all the financial turmoil, and the unsettling prospect of local government review in Suffolk, St Edmundsbury Borough Council has announced a council tax freeze for next year and called on other
Councils in Suffolk to follow their lead if they possibly can. Although only responsible for a relatively small proportion of the tax, St Edmundsbury has nevertheless set the mark for others to follow. Were Suffolk County Council able to follow suit, then each of St Edmundsbury’s 38,000 households would be spared an average of well over £50 next year.
Whilst we already provide considerable assistance in a variety of ways to our residents and businesses, I was keen, particularly in these very difficult times, to reach the maximum number of people as possible. In the end it became clear that this was the simplest and most effective way of doing precisely that.
Last year the council pledged to keep council tax rises at least half a percent below the September Retail Price Index for the next three years, but it was decided to improve on this commitment in the
exceptionally challenging economic climate. So how will this 0% change in council tax rate be achieved?
It will not be easy but we have always managed our financial affairs
carefully and, unlike the government, we made big efficiency savings
and built up our reserves in easier times. As a result, we are now able
to help out our taxpayers when they need it most.
The budget will not be set until February, but I’m confident that the
pledge made by the council (and now unanimously supported by all
political sides) will be achieved without affecting the quality of the
services it provides, or its ambitious capital programme.
This is something that together all members and staff can work towards.
It provides us with a common goal at a time of immense challenge.
Moreover it is the right thing to do for the people we serve, and the
right time to do it.
The budget will be set at about the same time as St Edmundsbury hears
the results of the Boundary Committee’s recommendations for unitary
government in Suffolk. Whether or not this council exists in its
current form beyond next year, we are providing a lead which we hope
others will, if they possibly can, follow. In particular I hope the
county council can get as close as possible to a 0% rise.
St Edmundsbury, Forest Heath and Waveney councils are promoting a three
way unitary solution for the county, which would find St Edmundsbury as
part of a West Suffolk Council.