A petition has been set up calling for St Edmundsbury Council to reinstate the £128,000 council tax support grant it is cutting from Haverhill.
However, the borough council has said it is merely passing on the cuts as it has had to cope with a 48 per cent reduction in funding from central Government, which has led to shared services with Forest Heath District Council and 14 redundancies across both.
The Haverhill and Kedington Labour group has launched a petition calling for the borough to pass on the £128,993, which it is phasing out over four years by cutting a quarter – £32,233 – annually.
Cllr Gary Stroud, who is on the town council’s finance committee, said: “This reduction in funding follows less than two years after the borough withdrew £200,000 in support for Haverhill Arts Centre.
“It is difficult for residents to ignore the difference between this approach and the £1.2m the borough still spends on the Apex Theatre in Bury St Edmunds, which, interestingly makes losses in excess of £700,000 per annum.
“If the losses made by The Apex were to be reduced even slightly, then this would have allowed the borough to maintain the council tax support grant to Haverhill, negating the need to make unnecessary cuts to services and rises to council tax.”
The funding stream for the Apex is entirely different to the council tax support grant, which is passed down to the borough from central Government and only introduced last year.
The borough now faces uncertainty over whether it will continue to receive that amount from Whitehall.
Cllr David Ray, St Edmundsbury cabinet member responsible for resources, said: “We do not know the exact amount we have for the council tax support grant because Government has confirmed it is wrapped up in an overall figure and not separately identified.
“We are facing a 48 per cent cut in Government revenue support grant over the next two years and, for the first time, we are saying that town and parish councils have to share some of this burden.
“Nobody in local government should think they are exempt from the decisions we all have to make about funding services – we all have to look at delivering services differently.
“Not only is St Edmundsbury passing on the grant this year, but we are also guaranteeing a level of grant for the following two years as well, even though we have no idea if we’ll get anything from the Government.
“That gives towns and parishes more certainty to plan their own financial futures.”
Tonight (Tuesday, February 18) Haverhill Town Council will be asked to support the petition, and will also likely vote through recommendations to raise its share of the council tax precept by 3.69 per cent – equivalent to £3.98 extra on a Band D property – to mitigate for the Government cuts.
Follow @JackTappin on Twitter for live coverage of tonight’s (Tuesday, February 18) meeting.
You can sign the petition online at is.gd/haverhillpetition or visit the arts centre or the Labour market stall on Saturdays.
For all the latest news see Thursday’s (February 20) Echo.