WDC propose increase in share of tax

Waveney District Council has revealed proposals for a 1.8pc increase in its share of the council tax, but insisted frontline services would not be affected.

Waveney District Council has revealed proposals for a 1.8pc increase in its share of the council tax, but insisted frontline services would not be affected.

Meanwhile, across Suffolk householders may have to pay an extra 3.75pc for county services in 2008-09, if proposals are ratified by the full council on February 21.

Waveney leader Mark Bee last year launched a three-year budget programme and pledged tax hikes would remain within inflation for at least that period.

Revealing the Conservative-run council's latest proposals, Mr Bee said: “It was absolutely paramount that we kept to this. We have gone through all the departments to see where savings can be made and where budgets haven't been spent this year. There will be no cuts to frontline services.

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“A lot of this is linked to our enabling agenda and how we can realise efficiencies by having our services provided by outside agencies.”

Mr Bee predicted this year's increase would be the lowest in Suffolk and said the public had been hit by big rises in their bills in the last decade.

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“Enough is enough and we at Waveney think we've got to minimise that increase, but maintain value-for-money for services,” he added.

Sally Spore, leader of the opposition Labour group at Waveney, said: “The pledge to keep council tax below inflation is all well and good, but services will clearly be affected.”

Suffolk County Council announced its proposals last Thursday and said it had kept the rise as low as possible, but opposition councillors said too many cuts were being made to services to justify such an increase.

Jane Storey, the council's portfolio holder for resource management and transformation, said an extra £36m would be spent on services in 2008-09, including £6.6m for vulnerable people and £2.5m for highways maintenance.

Almost £2m will be spent on fire, audit and inspection arrangements, animal health and community safety, with £500,000 being set aside for the upkeep of buildings and £1m for Home First, which provides short-term care for people in their homes.

She said: “This budget continues to be about the future, and the ambitions the council has for the prosperity and wellbeing of people living and working in Suffolk. I believe it will be welcomed by the people of Suffolk who are facing higher living costs due to increased fuel, food and petrol prices.”

The rise is above the rate of inflation, which at 2.1pc is the government's measure using the Consumer Price Index, but below the 4pc rate of inflation using the Retail Price Index, which includes mortgage payments as well as the cost of goods and services.

Householders in band D properties will now have to pay £1,073.88 a year for education, social care, roads, libraries and public protection. Properties in band H will see their council tax increase to £2,147.76.

The Waveney figures will be on top of those, and also to be added to the final council tax bill will be the Police Authority rate and the amounts set by town and parish councils.

Kevan Lim, the Labour spokesman for finance, said the council's proposal was simply making the cuts they announced in November, ignoring extra government grants.

He added: “Despite some tinkering around the edges, the Conservatives have ignored the additional windfall given to the county from government for improvements in social care, and ploughed on with their original programme of cuts.”

The council's cabinet will receive feedback from scrutiny committees on February 5 before discussing the recommended level of tax increase. A final decision will be put before full council on February 21.

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