Suffolk Bitesize: Your weekly council round-up with news on budgets, Thérèse Coffey and charity funding
Here’s some of what your representatives across the county have been up to since Monday, February 5.
Budgets across every major Suffolk council are not set for final approval at each local authority’s full council meetings.
Most councils are proposing an increase in their council tax by the maximum amount, at 2.99 per cent — with two authorities, Ipswich and Mid Suffolk proposing 2.98 and 2 per cent increases respectively.
Commonalities between councils also include warnings of tough decisions ahead as inflation and high prices continue to put pressure on local government finance.
Overall, scars from this financial year are forcing local councils to make sure finances are on a more sustainable footing for the coming year.
The discussions will kick off on Thursday with debate at the county level, and end on February 28 with Ipswich’s meeting.
Suffolk Coastal MP, Thérèse Coffey, stood up in the Commons on Monday to debate enforcement of Child Maintenance Service (CMS) payments.
She suggested the Government should step up its efforts to enforce payments in cases where parents had the means to pay through measures such as mandatory curfews.
She said: “The Department has a number of ways to try to get paying parents to cough up, and we must remember that this is cash for the children.
In Suffolk, 851 parents either didn’t pay or only paid up to 60 per cent of what they were due during the three months leading to September 2023.
But the number of children affected could be much higher since the Government does not collect data from cases when parents arrange pay among themselves.
A councillor has called for fairer funding after more than £450,000 were awarded to charities in West Suffolk.
A total of 32 charities, community groups, and organisations across the district are set to receive £466,733 in grant funding.
But Cllr Andy Neal, representing Mildenhall, said grants were not allocated fairly and suggested those who got grants should be given less priority the following year.
He said: “I know not everyone will get the funding they need, but every town contributes to the same pot, and we should all benefit from it.”
Cllr Donna Higgins, cabinet member for families and communities, said applications were all considered on their own merits and due weight was given to all of them.
A dog training park in Freckenham, near Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds, has been approved after delays.
The application was for an agricultural field off Fordham Road to be turned into a dog training and exercise park.
Despite officers’ recommendations for refusal, members of West Suffolk’s development control committee unanimously agreed to approve it.
Cllr Sara Mildmay-White, who originally agreed with officers, said she understood the concerns but agreed the park would have great benefits.
She said: “This is an innovative new business and we should be giving people a chance. It will look a bit intrusive, but with all the history of dog problems people have now, it is going to be a needed facility for now and in the future.”
Work on Ipswich museum has been given full support by council leaders – despite £2.7m in unexpected costs.
Councillors unanimously agreed on Tuesday to apply for a second round of money from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) which already takes up half of the project’s bill, for just over £1.36 million.
If approved, the council would also have to commit an equal amount of money.
However, the application is not guaranteed to be a success and, if so, it would lead to the project being halted altogether for a complete review, delaying it for at least 18 more months.
The next opportunity for a further funding application is later this month, February 22, with a decision expected by the end of June.