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Tax rise as Haverhill Town Council mitigates cuts and stops using reserves

Haverhill Town Council has increased its council tax precept

Haverhill Town Council has increased its council tax precept

 

Your taxes are going up as Haverhill Town Council voted near unanimously for the hike to mitigate for a grant cut.

The 3.69 per cent rise went through as the budget, which had already been recommended by the finance committee, was voted through by full council at Tuesday’s (February 18) meeting at the arts centre.

The rise will work out as 7p per week for a Band D home in Haverhill – £3.98 per year – from £107.77 to £111.75

It comes after three years of no increases from the town council.

The rise is to mitigate for the withdrawal of the council tax support grant of £128,933, with is being phased out over four years by 25 per cent each year by St Edmundsbury Council.

The town council’s precept amount is £774,254.

Town clerk Will Austin had been tasked with producing a budget that mitigated for grant cuts and removed the reliance on reserve funding while maintaining services and events.

The budget has a net expenditure reduction of £33,000, although a gross increase of £12,000 largely due to £45,000 on ONE Haverhill youth skills manager Karen Chapple, on a salary of £28,000.

The ONE Haverhill money is met full by the Department for Work and Pensions and has no impact on council tax though.

The ending of the Christmas lights contract sees a £15,000 saving and staff pay rises by one per cent.

The council expects to be able to provide a Christmas lights display by using the ones it owns, such as those designed by schoolchildren last year.

“You should not use reserve funding to prop up expenditure, and we have been doing this for the last two years,” said Mr Austin.

The council had used £29,000 of reserve funding in the last year, so the £33,000 savings in the latest budget would have removed the need for them to repeat that.

He said the reserve funding was largely needed for the proposed youth provision, including acquisition and outfitting of the old Magistrates’ Court in Camps Road into a youth centre.

Mr Austin also said the Grade II listed arts centre represented a ‘significant expense and a significant risk’, with funding needed in case of repairs to it.

He said there would be a ‘difficult four years ahead’, and although localism powers to trigger a referendum for ‘excessive’ council taxes rises do not currently apply to town and parish councils, annual reviews mean they could in the future.

Deputy mayor Maureen Byrne proposed that town clerk Will Austin’s proposed budget be given the green light and was backed nearly unanimously.

UKIP borough and county Cllr Tony Brown said his party ‘reluctantly’ supported the rise in the public forum.

Cllr Byrne said there was ‘no alternative’ if the council were to retain its level of services and events while coping with cuts, and that around 6,900 homes would be affected.

UKIP borough and county Cllr Tony Brown said his party ‘reluctantly’ supported the rise in the public forum.

Cllr Clive Turner was alone in voting against the rise.

Councillors had said that people in Haverhill supported the rise, but an Echo survey revealed that only 16.5 per cent of 79 respondents support a 10p tax hike while and overwhelming 83.5 per cent opposed it.

The Haverhill and Kedington Labour group has launched a petition calling for the borough to restore the £128,993 council tax support grant – 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 today’s (Thursday, February 20) Echo.

 

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