Budget for investment, growth and prosperity proposed for West Suffolk

06 Feb 2019

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A balanced budget to support millions of pounds of investment, deliver services and help bring prosperity to West Suffolk communities has been proposed.

Members of the West Suffolk Council Executive agreed unanimously the two year proposals should be recommended for approval and put in front of the West Suffolk Shadow Authority.

One of the main priorities for the shadow authority is to set a balanced budget for the new West Suffolk Council which will be created in April this year, 2019.

The new council will not only help maintain the millions of savings already made by Forest Heath District Council and St Edmundsbury Borough Council but also drive forward income and investment generation.

The council will not only deliver high quality services such as bin collections, award winning parks and supporting the most vulnerable with housing but also be able to have a louder voice to champion the area.

The councillors at their meeting yesterday, Tuesday, 5 February, agreed the proposals which set a balanced budget for 2019/2020 and indicative balanced budget for 2020/21.

The councils have been carrying out pioneering work in West Suffolk in areas such as clean energy generation for businesses as well as the continued performance of the largest solar farm of its kind.

Both councils have invested heavily in supporting bringing businesses and jobs to the area through new roads or supporting infrastructure.

The new council and balanced budget means the authority is in a better position to face some of the financial challenges all local government is facing and be in a better position to prepare for any possible future impacts.

It was agreed to back recommendations that from 1 April 2019, West Suffolk Council adopt a Suffolk-wide policy to help care leavers. The proposals is to award 100% council tax discount to West Suffolk residents aged 16-25 who were previously under the care of Suffolk County Council and who live alone; with other care leavers; or others who are disregarded for Council Tax purposes (for example full-time students). Care leavers will also be disregarded for council tax purposes so that if they live with a single occupier, that person will not lose their 25% discount.

Councillors also heard how the original business plan and proposals announced more than a year ago for the new council still stand and had been supported by Government. This means that the council is not only on track to realise the savings it said it would and continue its Council Tax harmonising plans.

Even without the new Council Forest Heath would have to have increased Council Tax by just under 10p a week (£4.95 a year for a typical Band D property) to meet the financial challenges the area faces. This remains unchanged by the creation of the new authority as Council Tax harmonises across the next seven years.

Cllr Stephen Edwards, Cabinet Member for Resources and Performance for Forest Heath District Council and Cllr Ian Houlder, Cabinet Member for Resources and Performance for St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said: “This is a budget for the new West Suffolk Council that invests in the future of our area. It builds on the good work that both Forest Heath District and St Edmundsbury Borough Councils have delivered previously. The proposals being put forward sets a balanced budget for the next two years. Creating the new council not only helps cement that strong financial position but means the new authority will be in a better place to seize investment and income opportunities while being able to drive prosperity, jobs and the economy for our communities and businesses. It also means that we will be in a better position to face some of the financial challenges that councils across the UK are already facing.

“Therefore, the council will continue the policy of investing heavily in our families and communities work, supporting new businesses coming to West Suffolk while delivering high quality services. We have also been able to propose helping young people leaving care with a discount on their Council Tax. As part of the creation the Council Tax levels for the both authorities will be harmonised over seven years. This means the former Forest Heath area, will see a rise in Council Tax of just under 10p a week but this would have been the case whether a new council had been created or not. It was also part of the business case when the plans were announced more than a year ago and have been approved by Government. The Shadow Authority is also going through harmonising various policies ready for the beginning of April and the creation of the new West Suffolk Council.”

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