Mid Suffolk District Council has approved its budget for 2020/21, including an increase in Council Tax that will see £2.76 a year added to the bill of a Band D property.
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 £20.9m achieved by the council since 2011/12, through shared services, efficiencies, better use of technology and commercial opportunities – with a further £2.8m in savings/income identified for 2020/1 and beyond.
The proposed increase of 1.66% to Council Tax is equivalent to just £2.76 over the course of a year for a Band D property (increases range from 4p per week for the smallest Band A property to 11p per week for the largest Band H property).
Other items agreed at a meeting of the council held last night, Thursday, February 27, include 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; and a reserve of £500,000 set aside for 2020/21 to tackle climate change.
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.”
Suzie Morley, Mid Suffolk District Council leader, added: “We need to work hard and be ambitious for our district – but we also need Council Tax bills as low as possible for our residents. I believe this budget finds the right balance between being able to invest in our district and provide the best possible services, while keeping costs down in order to give Mid Suffolk a bright and healthy future.
Earlier this year, the council approved 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 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.