Mid Suffolk agrees budget ‘to back communities and drive change’

Council tax rise of 2% - or 7p a week - is lower than most local authorities.

‘A prudent budget, but one which can deliver real change’ – Mid Suffolk District Council has agreed a lower council tax rise than most authorities as it sets out plans for the year ahead.

On Thursday evening, the council agreed a 2% increase to its share of the bill for 2024/25 – below the 2.99% the Government expected when funding settlements were made.

This means Mid Suffolk’s proportion of the council tax bill for a Band D property, which is currently £171.59, will increase by £3.44 – just 7p a week.

The district’s share is less than 10% of the total bill, with the remainder going to Suffolk County Council, the Police and Crime Commissioner and town or parish councils.

Mid Suffolk District Council leader, Cllr Andy Mellen, said: 

“It will always be our priority to deliver good value, high quality services for residents - but our ambitions are greater than that. We are backing our communities and working with them to create a real sense of purpose across our district.

“Our administration is putting environmental sustainability and social justice at the heart of everything we do. I am pleased to say this budget sets us up to continue doing that – we are working on many exciting plans.”

The cost of providing Mid Suffolk’s services to residents and communities is expected to rise by £1.8m to £14.2million in the next financial year – a 14% increase – mainly due to inflationary pressures, including interest rates, energy and salary costs. There has also been a reduction in planning fees, reflecting the national slowdown in housebuilding.

Cllr Rachel Eburne, deputy leader and cabinet member for finance and resources, said: 

“Government funding is simply not matching the inflationary pressures, cost increases and demand on services faced by local authorities. So this modest council tax increase will help protect services and allow us to further develop our plans.

“For example, we are already pressing ahead with our Skills & Innovation Centre at Gateway 14, which will help close the local skills gap – particularly in ‘green’ and ‘digital’ skills - and create huge opportunities for business. We are also investing in fantastic new sporting facilities in Stowmarket.

“We also have plans to develop housing for groups such as key workers, to improve access to green spaces, review sporting provision across the whole district, and re-purpose out of use heritage buildings.

“This will build on the work we have already started, such as our £2m Cosy Homes project offering free energy efficiency upgrades to make homes cheaper to heat and more environmentally friendly.”

Mid Suffolk has previously agreed increases to fees and charges to reduce the levels of subsidies required to run the services.

Meanwhile, the financial challenges facing the council’s housing account were highlighted, including a £1.1million increase in the cost of providing the service.

Council tenants will see a 7.7% increase in rents to try to keep pace with increased costs, with this money ringfenced to go back into housing - ensuring the necessary investment in repairs and maintenance across the council’s social housing stock.

This would mean an average weekly social rent increasing by £7.35 a week from £95.46 to £102.81. For affordable housing, weekly rents would increase by an average of £10.65 from £138.33 to £148.98.

Sheltered Housing Scheme charges will also be increased to reflect higher costs faced – heating charges will rise, on average, to £30.79 a month, and service charges up to an average of £27.19 a month.

Cllr Eburne added: “The cost-of-living crisis continues to impact many people, and we continue to support those most in need. Unfortunately, we have no option but to increase rents to ensure we have the funds to maintain tenants’ homes to a good standard.

“The increased charges at sheltered housing schemes reflect the higher costs faced, but also reduce the risk of our rent payers having to subsidise these schemes. We do not want to put up charges, but we have to get the right balance and find the fairest solution.”

Mid Suffolk District Council continues to provide advice and support to those struggling to pay their bills, with a council tax reduction of up to 100% for residents with the lowest incomes.

Pictured: Cllr Andy Mellen and Cllr Rachel Eburne

Cllr Andy Mellen and Cllr Rachel Eburne