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Council Tax increase and parking fee changes planned in West Suffolk Council budget





A Council Tax increase has been proposed by West Suffolk Council, with the authority's budget also including some changes to car parking tariffs.

West Suffolk Council is planning a Council Tax rise of 2.99 per cent – the maximum amount possible – in line with the Government’s advice for local authorities.

The increase would represent an extra 11p a week, or £5.76 a year, going to the council for the average Band D property. With about 70 per cent of properties in the district being band A to C, however, the majority of residents would pay less.

Cllr Cliff Waterman, West Suffolk Council leader. Picture: Suffolk County Council
Cllr Cliff Waterman, West Suffolk Council leader. Picture: Suffolk County Council

The council has also committed not to significantly change car parking charges across the district, with small amendments proposed.

In general, parking fees would not be going up. In Bury St Edmunds existing charges would stay at £3 and £4 for two and three hours respectively, with the council keeping parking free after 3pm on Tuesdays — parking in smaller towns would remain free.

However, the council is proposing to abolish the £1 overnight charge for Bury St Edmunds, while extending parking tariffs from 6pm to 8pm.

Cllr Diane Hind, West Suffolk Council cabinet member for resources. Picture: Siobhan Middleton
Cllr Diane Hind, West Suffolk Council cabinet member for resources. Picture: Siobhan Middleton

In addition, following resident requests for an increase in parking time allowed at the Cattle Market car park, in Bury, the council is proposing an hour’s extension, costing £6 for four hours.

These changes are coupled with a £440,000 car parking investment package, which would see resurfacing and additional EV charging points delivered over the next two years.

It is part of West Suffolk Council’s budget proposals – the first proposed by the West Suffolk Progressive Alliance which took over from the Conservative administration last May – for the next financial year, addressing the £5 million gap left by national financial pressures.

Council leader Cliff Waterman said the proposed budget represented an ambitious investment in the district while remaining prudent about the future.

West Suffolk Council deputy leader Victor Lukaniuk. Picture: Mark Westley
West Suffolk Council deputy leader Victor Lukaniuk. Picture: Mark Westley

He said: “We’re very excited to present the budget to the public because it’s a very positive one — there are no nasty surprises in there.

“It invests in West Suffolk’s future, it improves services and it keeps charges low.

“All our investments are in West Suffolk and within our community – none of them are about just making profits.”

Like other councils in the region, the proposed budget also includes the introduction of a 100 per cent Council Tax premium for second homes to encourage owners to bring them to market and help relieve housing pressures.

This is part of the council’s plans to have available affordable housing, which includes a £100,000 provision for the use of a Housing Revenue Account (HRA) which could see the council build homes for social housing and affordable rents in the future.

Deputy leader Victor Lukaniuk said: “This budget is going to give us stability not just for a year, for two years and beyond.

“I see the future, I’m encouraged by it and I’m delighted to be part of the administration because there are no skeletons coming out of the cupboard.”

Other proposed investments include a £13 million capital investment in improvements to parks, open spaces and leisure facilities, a £300,000 fund for Abbeycroft to protect against swimming pool closures and a £200,000 investment in the council’s grounds maintenance service.

Cllr Waterman said the council’s spending would be supported by responsible investment which did not put pressure on the council’s reserves.

He said: “We’re not dipping into our reserves. We need to keep those at the level they’re at because if there are any unforeseen changes, to government policy for instance, we have got a guarantee we can weather those.”

In terms of borrowing, although the council did not exclude the possibility of borrowing if rates were low enough, it did not have plans to do so for at least the next year.

Cllr Diane Hind, cabinet member for resources, said: “We don’t want to borrow unnecessarily, we want to do it at the right time when the rates are lowest.

“We’re still investing in essential services and even increasing them where we can.”

The budget plans will be looked at by members of the council’s performance and audit scrutiny committee on January 25 before going to cabinet and full council.