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Babergh councillors consider budget for 2020/21

The first draft of Babergh District Council’s budget for 2020/21 is set to be considered by councillors next week, including an increase in council tax that will see £5 a year added to the bill of a Band D Property.

The budget is set to be considered by Babergh cabinet members on Thursday 16 January and by Overview and Scrutiny on Monday 20 January.  It will then go to Full Council in February and, if approved, come into effect on 1 April.

Headlines include:

  • A proposed increase of 3% to council tax – equivalent to just 10p a week or £5 over the course of a year for a Band D property (increases range from £3.33 per annum for the smallest Band A property to £10 for the largest Band H property).
  • No change in the Council Tax Reduction Scheme that sees poorest residents pay just 5% of their bill.
  • A change to empty property discount, reducing the period that unoccupied and unfurnished properties pay discounted council tax from three months to 28 days, in order to bring empty properties in the district back into use.
  • Continued investment in CIFCO – the council’s property investment company, as agreed in last year’s budget.  CIFCO currently contributes over £1.4m a year in income to Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils and makes a significant contribution to the money required to run the councils’ services.  Without this income, residents would face the choice of either a substantial hike in council tax bills to fund the shortfall or cuts to services. 
  • An increase in long-stay car parking charges from £2 to £3. However, short-stay parking for up to three hours will remain free at many of our town centre car parks.

After four years of reductions, the council is also proposing putting up council house rents by 2.7% meaning a £2.19 per week increase for tenants – although, even with this increase, rents are still lower than in 2015/6.  Sheltered housing tenants also face an increase of £2 a week on their bills, but their utility payments remain static for another year.

The increases are in the face of reduced Government finance and changing funding landscape, with local councils increasingly incentivised to deliver local economic and housing growth – making both essential to the financial future of the council.

The budget report also recognises the cumulative savings/income of £30.9m achieved by the Council since 2011/12, through shared services, efficiencies, better use of technology and commercial opportunities – with a further £2.7m in savings/income identified for 2020/1 and beyond.

Cllr John Ward, Babergh District Council Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, said:

We do not take the decision to increase council tax lightly and understand the impact on our Babergh residents of even a small increase of £5 over the whole year for a Band D property.  Similarly we know that our council tenants will not welcome an increase in rent, but this is necessary so that we can maintain homes to the standard they expect, and also meet future social housing demand.

By taking these difficult decisions we can propose a 2020/21 budget which, despite the financial challenges we face, protects and enhances our services to residents.  Through prudent investment and management of our finances we can continue to ensure that Babergh remains amongst the best places to live in the UK.

As previously reported, councillors are also considering the introduction of penalties to tackle council tax fraud, alongside the adoption of a new protocol produced by Citizens Advice and Local Government Association for the collection of council tax arrears, in order to help those in genuine need.

In the meantime, residents can easily check their details and let the councils know of any changes 24/7 by signing up for an online account via the councils’ website.  Through an online account, residents can opt for paperless billing, check their balance, see instalments, update their details and see council tax reduction and housing benefit claim information as well as viewing bills online.

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