In response to the challenges faced by local communities during the pandemic, East Suffolk Council is planning to freeze its element of council tax for the coming year.
East Suffolk Council’s draft budget for the 2021/22 financial year, which was approved by Cabinet on Tuesday 2 February, will see an overall spend of £129 million committed to delivering essential services across 57 different service areas in the coming year.And to provide further financial support to local residents during the pandemic, there will be no increase to East Suffolk Council’s element of council tax; with a property in Band D paying £171.27 for 2021/22 (£14.27 per month), which is the same as in 2020/21. The Council’s budget is made up of contributions from council tax, business rates and smaller contributions from central government grant schemes. Council tax contributions will account for £14.95 million of the budget. Less than 10% of each household’s council tax bill goes to East Suffolk Council, with the remainder going to Suffolk County Council and the Police & Crime Commissioner.
The budget will now be presented to Full Council for final approval on 24 February.Covid-19 has presented significant additional financial challenges for the Council. However, robust reserves have enabled the Council to continue to thoroughly support residents, communities and businesses during the pandemic whilst remaining financially sustainable. This is a key ambition within the Council’s Strategic Plan, ensuring the Council provides value for money to residents, delivering the best services possible and being commercially astute to generate income which can be further invested in services.
Cllr Steve Gallant, Leader of East Suffolk Council said: “The pandemic has seen many residents with reduced income and many more with serious concerns about maintaining their financial security. Whilst only a small percentage of each household’s council tax bill goes to East Suffolk Council, it is our hope that freezing our element of this year’s bill will provide further support for those in need.”
Cllr Maurice Cook, East Suffolk’s cabinet member for Resources said: “We are in a well-balanced financial position for the year ahead, which has been achieved by using our reserves which are set aside for emergencies, such as the pandemic. The outlook is uncertain due to the additional financial challenges of the pandemic however our robust reserve position has enabled us to meet these challenges and at the same time, freeze our element of council tax for 2021/22.
“The pandemic has caused financial difficulty for the Council but more so for our residents and we want to ease those difficulties wherever possible.”
As part of the budget setting process, the Council is required to agree a four-year programme of capital expenditure which focuses on the delivery of essential projects and ensures resources are aligned with the Council’s Strategic Plan. The programme, which was approved at Full Council on Wednesday 27 January, aims to maximise resources by actively seeking external funding and making efficient use of Council assets and commercial opportunities.
The Council will also look at decreasing its overhead costs by championing major energy saving projects such as the addition of solar panels to council-owned assets and car parks.
Earlier this year, local residents and businesses were invited to comment on the Council’s spending priorities to ensure the 2021/22 budget accurately reflected the needs of local communities.