Waveney council proposes tax increase

Hayley Mace A cash-strapped council has revealed plans for a tax increase of just 8p per week but will also shed dozens of jobs in a bid to balance its books.

Hayley Mace

A cash-strapped council has revealed plans for a tax increase of just 8p per week but will also shed dozens of jobs in a bid to balance its books.

Waveney District Council is proposing a 2.95pc increase in council tax for the coming year, which will cost a band D household �147.51 over the year.

However, in order to save enough money to be able to keep council tax at that level, the authority is looking at saving nearly �1m in 2010/11 through staff redundancies - a figure which equates to about 30 full-time posts.

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The budget proposals hold good news for some local projects, including cash set aside for much-needed repair work at Southwold Harbour, and money is going to be set aside each year to build up the council's reserves to help it cover any unexpected costs in the future.

Alan McFarlane, the council's director of resources, said that the council has already saved �1.5m over the last year through voluntary and compulsory redundancies and that further savings were likely to be made over the next 12 months.

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He said: “We've had some challenges around our budget, but we don't want to burden people with huge council tax increases, so the only other way to save money is to make savings behind the scenes.”

Part of the council's budget gap will also be plugged by increases of 10p an hour at many of the district's car parks. Mike Ryland, portfolio holder for performance, said: “It is a tiny increase but, across the district, a revenue generator which will enable us to maintain our strong levels of investment in Waveney's towns and communities.”

The proposals for council tax come at the end of a difficult financial period for the authority, which is still caught up in negotiations with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) over an alleged �9m bill for overpaid benefit subsidies.

However, council leader Mark Bee said that he had recently met representatives from the DWP to continue negotiations and was confident that a decision would be made about the amount of money to be repaid and the timescale it would allow in time for the budget to be approved by Waveney's cabinet at the end of February.

He said: “We have set aside �300,000 in this year's budget for payments to the DWP. The issue now is about the terms and timescale of any repayment.

“They have indicated that they would want the money paid back over more than one year, but we've not yet reached the end of our negotiations with them.”

The budget proposals will be discussed by the overview and scrutiny committee on Thursday, February 4, before being considered by full council at the end of February.

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