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Babergh faces further four years of council tax increases as district braces itself for 'most difficult time financially' ever

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Babergh District Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich. (6621376)
Babergh District Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich. (6621376)

Households in Babergh are set to face a further four years of council tax rises from April – as the district braces itself for the “most difficult time financially” it has ever seen.

Babergh District Council’s cabinet met last week, when the first draft proposals of the authority’s budget for the next financial year were unveiled.

Among the headline measures is a planned increase in council tax of £5 per annum – the equivalent of 10p per week – for band D properties.

Savings totalling around £2.4 million have also been identified.

Speaking during the cabinet meeting on Thursday, Conservative council leader John Ward confirmed the council was eyeing four years of council tax rises.

“We will continue to do these increases without needing to go to a referendum – £5 per annum for the next two years and three per cent for the following two years,” he said.

“This will ensure we can grow our council tax revenues, to ensure we can offset the cost pressures we face.”

Mr Ward said he recognised it would impact on taxpayers, but squeezed budgets from central government meant local authorities were having to make savings.

Frank Lawrenson, Conservative cabinet member for assets and investments, said the budget showed the council was “entering potentially the most difficult time financially over the next five years we have ever seen”.

It is understood that the £2.4 million of savings needed would not impact on frontline services, but would be covered by increasing income from property rental and investment, as well as cutting some staff costs.

However, council officers said the staff cost savings would not be redundancies, but would be achieved through cutting back on temporary and external consultancy use, as well as reducing the ‘disturbance allowance’ – a fund set up to help staff who had to travel into Ipswich following the council’s move to Endeavour House.

Independent councillor Derek Davis, cabinet member for organisational delivery, added: “I am really concerned about the council tax rise for all our residents, but that’s parish, district, county council, police, so there is going to be a real bind.

“We are in for a bad year and that’s going to hurt our residents, but we understand why.”

The budget proposals are currently in the first draft, and will return for further discussion at both cabinet and full council meetings in February, before being adopted.

Another measure was a plan to borrow a further £25 million for Cifco Capital – the council’s joint commercial property acquisition firm with Mid Suffolk – to invest, which aimed to create additional income for the councils.