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Mid Suffolk District Council council tax rise to see council house tenants hit hardest

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Mid Suffolk District Council is set to raise its element of the council tax by 1.66% – with council house tenants also set to be hit with the highest rent rise possible.

The council’s administration has published the first draft of its budget for 2020/21, which proposes a 1.66% council tax rise – £2.76 a year increase for a Band D property.

It also includes plans to raise the council house rent by 2.7% – the maximum allowable under government rules.

Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich (25840383)
Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich (25840383)

That equates to an estimated £2.19 per week, while sheltered housing tenants will also face a £2 a week increase on their bills plus a 62p per week increase on utility bills specifically.

The council house rent increase follows four years of government-planned reductions.

Other measures include a £500,000 reserve to tackle climate issues, plans to bring empty properties back into use quicker, found savings of £2.7m, and continued investment in CIFCO – the property acquisition company owned by Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils.

Councillor John Whitehead, Mid Suffolk District Council’s Conservative cabinet member for finance, said: “Increasing council tax and rent is not a decision we take lightly, but the hard choices taken and prudent investments made over recent years have enabled us to propose a 2020/21 budget which protects and, in many cases, enhances our front-line services with only a modest increase in council tax – an increase which for yet another year is below the level of retail price inflation.

“This budget also allows us to earmark £500,000 to ensure funding is available for the recommendations that will come from our environment and climate change taskforce – helping us to achieve our ambition of being carbon neutral by 2030 and ensuring that our finances are robust enough to meet both the local and global challenges of the future.”

According to the council, the income from investing in property through CIFCO is around £1.4million a year, which means the council does not need to raise council tax further or make drastic cuts.

However, concerns have been voiced that those investments are largely outside of Suffolk, and included some retail units – an avenue that is becoming increasingly more fraught with risk.

Councillor Andrew Stringer from the opposition Green group, said: “We are quite astounded to see resources being squirrelled away to mitigate against risks we have brought upon ourselves, and we are looking to put forward alternative proposals, including ones which will address the climate worries we face.

“There are also some economic and social issues we would have hoped this budget would have addressed,”

Green councillor John Matthissen added that the sheltered housing increases were “quite harsh” on those residents.

The first draft is set to be discussed by the council’s cabinet on January 13, before then going on to full council next month.

Suffolk County Council has already announced its first draft of the budget, which includes a 3.99% increase in council tax for 2020/21.