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Mid Suffolk councillors consider budget for 2020/21

The first draft of Mid Suffolk District Council’s budget for 2020/21 is set to be considered by councillors later this month, including a 1.66% increase in its share of council tax, adding £2.76 a year to the bill of a Band D Property.

The budget will be considered by Mid Suffolk cabinet members on Monday 13 January and by Overview and Scrutiny on Thursday 16 January.  It will then go to Full Council in February and, if approved, will come into effect on 1 April.

Headlines include:

  • A proposed increase of 1.66% to council tax, equivalent to just £2.76 over the course of a year for a Band D property (increases range from £1.84 per annum for the smallest Band A property to £5.54 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.
  • A reserve of £500,000 set aside for 2020/21 to tackle climate change.

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.

After four years of government-enforced reductions, the council is also proposing putting up council house rents by 2.7% - meaning a £2.19 per week increase for tenants.  Sheltered housing tenants also face an increase of £2 a week on their bills plus a 62p a week increase to their utility bills.

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 Whitehead, Mid Suffolk District Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance, said:

Increasing council tax and rent is not a decision we take lightly, but the hard choices taken and prudent investments made over recent years have enabled us to propose a 2020/21 budget which protects and, in many cases, enhances our front-line services with only a modest increase in council tax. An increase which for yet another year is below the level of retail price inflation. This budget also allows us to earmark £500,000 to ensure funding is available for the recommendations that will come from our Environment and Climate Change Taskforce – helping us to achieve our ambition of being carbon neutral by 2030 and ensuring that our finances are robust enough to meet both the local and global challenges of the future.

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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