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West Suffolk Council approves budget for next financial year for residents in Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill and Newmarket





A council tax annual increase of nearly £6 has been approved for West Suffolk residents with a Band D home.

West Suffolk Council’s budget for the next financial year was approved during last night’s meeting after a lengthy debate which saw 33 votes for, three against, and 22 abstentions.

The budget included a council tax increase of 2.99 per cent, the maximum amount possible, which will see a Band D resident pay £5.76 extra for the next year — this is on top of the £74.61 increase approved by the county council last week.

The budget has been approved for West Suffolk Council, inset - Cllr Cliff Waterman West Suffolk Council's leader. Picture: Joao Santos
The budget has been approved for West Suffolk Council, inset - Cllr Cliff Waterman West Suffolk Council's leader. Picture: Joao Santos

The increase, leaders said, was in a bid to keep delivering services while dealing with the financial pressures facing local authorities across the country — despite this, West Suffolk’s 100 per cent council tax reduction scheme is to remain in place and help around 4,700 residents.

Cllr Cliff Waterman, West Suffolk’s leader, said: “[The budget] delivers the services that people need right now and allows us to meet the ever-increasing demand we face, to do otherwise, would be to let our communities down in these difficult times.

“I feel proud that we have worked together to produce something that delivers to the citizens of West Suffolk, and is a model to other authorities in how to do it.”

Cllr Diane Hind, from West Suffolk Council. Picture: West Suffolk Council
Cllr Diane Hind, from West Suffolk Council. Picture: West Suffolk Council

The approved budget also included a £60.31m spending plan which carried on legacy projects as well as investing in new projects including, for instance, £6.2m into Bury Leisure Centre over 10 years, £2.3m in commercial units in Anglian Lane and Hollands Road, and a £2m investment into delivering a new sport and leisure provision at the St Felix site in Newmarket.

Cllr Diane Hind, who is responsible for the budget, added: “This is a positive budget that invests in the whole of West Suffolk and the future of local communities, businesses, and the environment.”

There were some concerns, however, raised by the Conservative leader, Cllr Nick Clarke, who criticised the council for not making enough savings in light of a growing predicted budget gap, suggesting cuts to staff in the process.

Cllr Nick Clarke, opposition leader. Picture: West Suffolk Council
Cllr Nick Clarke, opposition leader. Picture: West Suffolk Council

As it stands, the council has put forward a two-year balanced budget but is predicting a £5.71m budget gap for the 2026/27 financial year, growing to £6.28m in 2027/28 — this is an increase from a predicted gap of £2.67m for 2025/26 and £3.69m for 2026/27 when last year’s budget was set.

Cllr Clarke said: “This trajectory cannot happen. We need decisive action from this administration to put this right.

“There does not have to be a budget deficit in two years, the Labour-led administration has chosen to have one — just calling something robust, does not make it so.”

The council is led by the West Suffolk Working Partnership, which includes Labour, the Independents, the Lib Dems, and the Greens.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Hind said uncertainty over Government money drove the predicted gaps, but plans were already designed in case the council faced gaps in the coming years despite the decision to not implement them just yet.

She added: “We’ll probably need some savings but we’re not going to cut services now and then find out we didn’t need to, that would be foolish and people would suffer in the meantime.”

During the meeting, Cllr Waterman also called for an increase in the amount of Government funding West Suffolk Council, and other local authorities across the UK, were receiving.

He said: “The one change that is needed is future certainty for all local government and public services in terms of national funding rather than the sticking plaster approach we suffer from at the moment.

“It’s that certainty of funding that will make a real and lasting difference.”