How much will Felixstowe peninsula residents pay as council budgets finalised - here is what we know
By Joao Santos (Local Democracy Reporter)
12th Feb 2024 | Local News
Budgets across Felixstowe peninsula councils are now set for final approval — here's a breakdown of what you need to know.
Residents on the peninsula will have to pay an increase of at least 2.99 per cent in its Council Tax, made up of precepts from individual parishes, Babergh District Council, Suffolk County Council and the police and Crime Commissioner.
With local authorities now gearing up for their respective full council meetings, when the last round of discussions and a final decision will take place, common themes have started to emerge.
Regardless of political colour, council leaders across the county continue to warn of tough decisions as they find themselves in a particularly difficult period for budget-setting. Inflation is still above normal levels and prices are still on the rise.
Although some councillors put it differently depending on the political flag they represent, there is also a sense that Government funding is not enough to keep pace with financial pressures.
With all this in mind, councils have by and large followed Government guidance to put up Council Tax by the maximum allowed.
Suffolk County Council (SCC)
To balance the books, SCC had to put forward a savings package amounting to £64.7m which included controversial decisions such as cutting the arts core funding element by 100 per cent and moving the West Suffolk Archives branches away from Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft to Ipswich.
The savings would come alongside a Council Tax increase by the maximum amount of 4.99 per cent — made up of a 2.99 per cent increase in general council tax and 2 per cent dedicated to funding adult care.
Late last month, it was announced the council would receive a £7.2m relief package from central government, allowing SCC to partially reverse its arts cuts as well as mitigate some of the effects the budget would have on its reserves.
Nevertheless, Cllr Richard Rout, who is responsible for balancing the books, said this was the most challenging budget in many years.
The full council meeting will take place on Thursday, February 15.
East Suffolk Council
Leftover damage from Covid and rising costs have also left the new coalition administration at East Suffolk Council having to plug a budget gap of just over £3.5m.
Like others in the county, Council Tax is also proposed to increase by the maximum of 2.99 per cent in the next financial year — though alone this is not enough to fill the gap.
To present a balanced budget, the new administration is also proposing to use up two different reserve pots — these include £2.5m of earmarked money for specific uses, as well as around £1.85m of money saved throughout the year.
The final decision on East Suffolk's budget is scheduled for Wednesday, February 21.
Ipswich Borough Council
Much like at the county level, Ipswich Borough Council has also found itself in the position to nip into its reserves for just over £3.2m to address its current £4.4m budget gap.
Alongside this is a Council Tax increase just shy of the maximum it is allowed to charge, at 2.98 per cent, as well as a £1.6m savings package.
Although no controversial savings have been announced for the coming financial year, the council report admits later years could prove more difficult to balance and may warrant tough decisions.
Ipswich's full council meeting will be held on Wednesday, February 28.
Babergh District Council
Babergh's decision to propose a Council Tax hike of 2.99 per cent is not surprising considering it currently faces a budget gap of just over £1.8m, partly as a result of a 21 per cent increase in the cost of providing its services.
To address the financial shortfall, the council is proposing a repurposing of just over £3m of its earmarked reserves, part of which would be used to fill the current gap, with the specific amount to be announced next week.
The rest of the money would be used to deal with shortfalls resulting from Government policy, as well as be placed into a new pot to be drawn on as needed throughout the year.
Babergh's decision will come on Tuesday, February 20, in the afternoon.
Mid Suffolk District Council
Although Mid Suffolk has also shared the same financial pressures as other councils in the county and has spent more than it had anticipated last year, its position, unlike them, is still looking at a net surplus of nearly £2.9m.
Although the country's first Green-led council is still proposing a 2 per cent increase in Council Tax, this will represent the smallest hike in the whole county.
Like Babergh, it will also be looking to repurpose some of its reserves for better use, while maintaining them at a healthy level.
West Suffolk Council
West Suffolk Council is also proposing a Council Tax increase of the maximum it is allowed, at 2.99 per cent.
Increases in fees and charges have also been proposed in line with inflation but council leaders have said there were no nasty surprises behind their proposals.
However, although current proposals present a balanced budget for the next two financial years, the council report also indicates gaps to be met in later years — these are currently forecast at £5.71m in 2026/27 and £6.28m in 2027/28.
Nevertheless, these figures will only be used as a guide as Government funding and financial pressures fluctuate.
The full council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, February 20.