At a historic meeting this evening, councillors from Suffolk Coastal and Waveney District Councils set the first ever budget for the new East Suffolk Council, which will replace the two existing authorities on April 1st.
Committing to an overall net spend for 2019/20 of £25.6 million to deliver essential services from Lowestoft in the north to Felixstowe in the south, councillors hailed this budget as a landmark moment in history and good news for residents, businesses and local communities.
Having already committed to a four-year capital spending programme on major projects of over £200 million, the new council’s annual spend will help deliver key outcomes to the area through a range of initiatives.
These will include a £7,500 community enabling budget for all 55 councillors to assist their local areas, improvements to the social housing offering throughout east Suffolk, further housing development, schemes to address health inequality and improve outcomes in the district’s most deprived areas and further investment in leisure centres and seafront regeneration.
The Council’s budget will be made up of contributions from Council Tax, Business Rates and smaller contributions from central government grant schemes - which are expected to disappear altogether from next year. Council tax contributions will account for £14.43 million of the budget, with the amount paid by each household to East Suffolk increasing by 2.5% which, on average, is around £4.05 extra for the entire year (Band ‘D’ property), or around 34 pence per month.
Less than 10% of each council tax bill actually goes to East Suffolk Council with the remainder going to Suffolk County Council and the Police & Crime Commissioner. From an average annual bill on a Band ‘D’ property of £1,671.21, East Suffolk will only receive £166.32.
Government policy towards local councils assumes that council tax will need to rise and allows for councils to approve a council tax increase of up to 3% or £5.00 (whichever is higher), however a year-end surplus as part of a programme of sensible financial management means that the new council does not need to seek the full increase
Cllr Ray Herring and Cllr Mark Bee, Leaders of Suffolk Coastal and Waveney District Councils respectively, said:
“This is a historic day and we are incredibly proud to be standing here this evening seeking the approval of councillors for the first ever East Suffolk Council budget.
The creation of this new council is the culmination of an 11-year journey for Suffolk Coastal and Waveney, which began with the appointment of Stephen Baker as joint Chief Executive in 2008 and has seen us secure revenue savings of over £22.5 million.
The decision to create this new council was a response to the challenges faced by local government throughout the country – namely to continue delivering outstanding services for our local communities, against the backdrop of considerable financial pressures and challenges.
This is the first time that new district councils have been created since local government reorganisation 45 years ago and tells an important story of innovation, determination and a real clarity of focus.”
Speaking about the importance of setting a balanced budget, Cllrs Herring and Bee added:
“It is crucial that we have the appropriate resources to deliver the services and projects that our communities expect. A small rise in council tax is sadly unavoidable, however it is worth pointing out that the actual increase to each household is very small indeed – only around eight pence per week.
What this budget shows though is that we are committed, through our Business Plan, to the things that really matter: economic growth to create jobs and prosperity, housing, health & wellbeing and looking after our most vulnerable communities.
Had we not taken the decision to create a new Council for East Suffolk, these things would almost certainly not have been possible. Thanks to a decade of innovation and planning for a brighter future, the prospects for the communities and businesses of East Suffolk look very bright indeed.”