East Suffolk Council agrees to freeze its portion of council tax to 'support public in time of crisis'
A freeze on East Suffolk Council’s portion of the council tax bill has been agreed by the authority’s cabinet, citing the financial challenges many are facing from the Covid-19 pandemic as a key reason.
The authority last week unveiled its first draft budget at its scrutiny committee meeting, in which it proposed to keep the council tax level for 2021/22 at the same level as this year – £171.27 for a Band D property.
The council’s cabinet on Tuesday night agreed to that rate, with a final decision on February 24 by full council.
Conservative council leader Steve Gallant said the decision would support people facing severe financial uncertainty as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“There is uncertainty in the public finances going forward but there are also many members of the public feeling a similar level of uncertainty around their own financial positions as well,” he told the cabinet meeting.
Mr Gallant said the council needed funding to continue delivering services but to “also think about what the financial position is for the residents we support”.
He stressed that no service cuts were planned.
Conservative cabinet member for resources Maurice Cook, said the council was committing £2million from its in-year savings reserve this year, with a further £2.2m from the same pot next year to cover the funding gaps.
“Covid-19 has presented significant additional financial challenges to the council, and the outlook is very uncertain at this stage for both next year and the medium term,” he said.
“However, the council’s robust reserves position enables it to meet these challenges to develop its response to the pandemic, and the objective of maintaining financial sustainability.”
Mr Cook said a combination of using reserves, the financial support from central government and savings found during the year, such as through reduced travel expenditure, had all enabled council tax to be frozen.
It is currently the only district or borough in the county planning to freeze its portion of the council tax bill, although homes in the district will still see their overall bill rise as a result of planned increases with the policing precept and Suffolk County Council element.
Labour group leader Peter Byatt said: “What this council has done was the wisest and fairest thing in the circumstances.
“This is important that the public recognises that this zero increase is being done to support them in this time of crisis.”