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Suffolk residents to pay £74 more in Council Tax following Suffolk County County’s budget green light





Suffolk residents are to pay £74 more in Council Tax after the county council’s budget was given the green light.

Suffolk County Council supported the budget this afternoon, with 37 votes for and 17 against, after over four hours of a discussion which included two proposed amendments from opposition groups.

The council’s agreed 4.99 per cent council tax increase, the maximum allowed, will see a Band D homeowner paying £74.61 more this year — two per cent of which, or just under £30, is ringfenced money for social care.

Suffolk residents to pay £74 more in council tax following county’s budget green light. Picture: Joao Santos
Suffolk residents to pay £74 more in council tax following county’s budget green light. Picture: Joao Santos

Cllr Richard Rout, cabinet member for finance and environment, said increasing council tax had been a tough decision forced by financial pressures such as high inflation and increasing demand.

He added: “We never do this lightly but doing so this year is a key part we ensure we support those who need it most in our county — this is the most difficult budget we have had to set for many years.”

“Balancing this deficit between what we need to spend and what we have to spend has meant looking hard and carefully at our budget, and making difficult decisions.”

The budget included a £64.7m savings package to be made over the next two years. To achieve this, the council approved a range of measures which prioritise statutory services, including a £717,000 cut to children’s centres — dubbed ‘family hubs’ in the report — and a £1m cut to the housing revenue support.

But the council said the cuts were not only essential to maintain the finances on a sustainable footing for the future but also, vital in order to give priority to children and adult care, with a combined £72.6m pledge for these services.

To fund its expenditure, the council also agreed to use £8.7m in reserves during the next financial year, down from the initially proposed £15.8m as a result of additional Government money having been allocated.

Cllr Rout continued: “This is a budget that is for all of Suffolk — we make no apology for putting first, those who need it most.”

Although neither of the amendments submitted by the opposition proposed a smaller increase in Council Tax, they included the reversal of some budget cuts.

The Labour Group’s amendment proposed the council should use just over £7.1m of Government money to reverse the cuts instead of using it to help plug the reserves gap faced by the council.

Cllr Sandy Martin, deputy leader of the Labour Group, said: “We have to run down our reserves to a certain extent, otherwise we cannot provide the support people need to prevent from requiring more expensive services.

“The additional costs to this council will outstrip the amount supposedly set aside for reserves — your [Suffolk County Council] cuts will stoke up problems for the future.”

Addressing Labour’s amendment, Cllr Rout said the proposals would mean bankruptcy by the 2026/27 financial year.

He added: “I know there are some difficult decisions in this budget but we must keep this council financially stable, that is the biggest service we can do Suffolk.

“This council is well-run, we have fought to maintain healthy reserve balances — this amendment not only seeks to undo that, it seeks to blow it up.”

The Labour Group’s amendment was defeated with 15 votes for, 48 against, and one abstention.

The Green, Lib Dem, and Independent (GLI) Group’s amendment, on the other hand, proposed smaller changes which included reversing the changes to the arts funding, and the deferral of a decision on local archive branch closures. and using Government money to fund programs for young people.

Cllr Andrew Stringer, who leads the GLI Group, said: “To allow our residents to face these challenges, without us making every effort to find a sensible compromise, will be letting the people we represent down and we are not prepared to do this.”

The GLI amendment was defeated with 19 votes for and 47 against.