Support pledged for environment, economy and communities – despite warning of ‘financial cliff edge’

Council tax rise of 2.99% - an increase of 10p a week - is agreed by Babergh.

Babergh District Council has outlined its determination to create a ‘more resilient and sustainable future’ for the district, despite severe financial pressures.

On Tuesday evening, councillors agreed the 2024/25 budget, which includes an increase to the district’s share of council tax bills of 2.99%. 

This means Babergh’s bill for a Band D home will rise from £182.64 to £188.10 a year – an increase of 10p a week. Babergh keeps only 9% of the bill, with the rest going to Suffolk County Council, the Police and Crime Commissioner and town and parish councils.

Latest figures show the cost of providing district council services to residents and communities will rise by £1.6m to £14.1m in the next year – a 12.8% increase.

This is mainly due to inflationary pressures, particularly interest rates, energy and salary costs, while there has also been a reduction in planning fees as potential development continues to slow due to the economic downturn. Government funding for the council has increased by around 3.4%.

Babergh’s acting leader and cabinet member for finance, assets and investments, Cllr John Ward, said: “Babergh continues to deliver excellent value for money, providing vital services that people rely on. However, the severity of our financial position cannot be underestimated

“Babergh closed its budget gap this year with the use of earmarked reserves, but we have to save £6.7m over the next four years. We have only £2.4m of useable reserves available. Without action, this council is heading towards a financial cliff edge - we have to be responsible and make tough choices.”

The council has increased fees and charges to reflect the actual cost of providing licences and services, and a savings programme is also expected to achieve savings of £540k. 

Cllr Deborah Saw, deputy council leader, added: “We have made clear that we believe the current system of funding local government is broken and call on the Government to review this so we can continue delivering the services which our communities value and need.

“However, these financial pressures do not quash our ambition for the district – we just have to be more innovative and develop new approaches, working with communities to meet their aspirations.”

Council leader Cllr Dave Busby, who has temporarily stepped down from day-to-day council duties while undergoing cancer treatment, said: “Environmental sustainability, helping our economy to thrive to provide people with more opportunities, and building resilient communities are the pillars of what we want to achieve.

“This won’t be easy within our financial constraints, but we will remain positive and ambitious.”

Meanwhile, it was agreed council tenants would see a 7.7% increase in rents. This will ensure the necessary investment in repairs and maintenance across the council’s social housing stock.

The increase means the average weekly social rent increases by £7.92 from £102.88 to £110.81. For affordable housing, weekly rents would increase by £11.13 from £144.51 to £155.63.

Babergh District Council provides 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 Dave Busby, Cllr Deborah Saw and Cllr John Ward

Cllr Dave Busby, Cllr Deborah Saw and Cllr John Ward