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Criticism and fears over council tax hike

By Martin Chapman on Tuesday, 5th February 2002.

As councillors across Suffolk prepare budgets, homeowners across the county are anxiously awaiting how much they will pay next year.

Councillors are concerned about the pressure on the social services budget, which requires four times the amount given by government – causing a deficit of around £10 million.

According to Jane Hore, the government funding was not appropriate for the services expected. She said: “we are addressing some of the areas which are in highest demand, in particular social care.” But she said the councils “additional costs for social services were four times more than the extra government funding.”

Despite this the council is keen to uphold its pledge for funding for education to go direct to the service; meaning an increase of £18 million compared to last year for the department.

Some sources are suggesting that council tax will, in St Edmundsbury rise by at least 9%.

However Jane Hore, leader of the council said: “this still represents good value when you consider both the insurance and reassurance residents get from services such as fire and trading standards.”

She went on to say: “we are proposing a rise in most people’s council tax of £1.20 a week. This is a relatively small amount, but it will secure the level of service expected.”

She emphasised that although the biggest area of benefit is likely to be in social services, many “may not see it directly as a lot of social care work is done on the privacy of people’s own homes.”

She went on to stress that whatever happened there would “be no reductions in services.”

The above inflation increase has angered the Conservative group of Suffolk County Council, whose budget and policy spokesman, Cllr Jeremy Permbroke slammed the council. He feels some residents would find it very difficult to afford. Cllr Permbroke said: “never in the history of the council have we had an increase of this size.”

Sue Sida-Lockett, leader of the Conservative group attacked the Labour and Liberal Democrat run council accusing them of increasing tax whilst not providing high quality services. She said: “we have had a 53% increase in council tax in the last five years and we have not had a 53% improvement in services.”

St Edmundsbury borough council plans to increase council tax by 15% his year, on top of a 10% rise last year.

Derek Redhead, leader of the borough council blamed central government saying: “Best value initiatives cost us a total of £50 per household. We don’t have a choice about whether we do it.”

The final proposal for the budget will be put before the full council meeting on 26 February after it has been discussed by the council’s executive committee.

Haverhill Weekly News

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