St Edmundsbury Council has defended recent cuts made to Haverhill in the wake of a petition calling for the latest £128,000 grant that has been stopped to be restored.
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, slammed the borough for making the cut ‘less than two years after the borough withdrew £200,000 in support for Haverhill Arts Centre’.
He also stated that The Apex makes an annual loss of £700,000, and if this was made more sustainable the grant money could be returned to Haverhill.
The council tax grant which is being cut is passed down from central Government, with no stipulation that the borough must pass on the funds.
It is also unclear whether St Edmundsbury will get this grant from Whitehall again, and hence is phasing it out.
A borough council spokeswoman said: “Funding for services, such as parks, bin collections, cultural and leisure facilities are paid for out of the council’s own budget.
“The council tax support grant is a grant that we are under no obligation to pass on and is part of our overall funding from the Government.
“We have chosen to pass it on, unlike many other councils.
“Haverhill Town Council chose to fund the arts centre itself by raising the funds locally from Haverhill residents.
“Every council has to work within its budgets – Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury councils have restructured services in response to the economic realities we face, saving £3.5 million between us and we now have 14 per cent fewer staff between us – a cut of more than 100,000 staff hours across West Suffolk.
“But we have maintained services through looking at how we can share our resources, for example.
“Government at every level, including towns and parishes, faces the same financial challenges and we all need to look at how things can be done differently.”
Cllr David Ray, St Edmundsbury cabinet member responsible for resources, said the council tax grant is wrapped up in an overall figure.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Brandon Lewis, Parliamentary under secretary of state for communities and local government, previously said: “We have been clear that we expect billing authorities to carry on passing on support to town councils and parishes to help mitigate any reduction in their tax base due to the local council tax support scheme.”
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 tomorrow’s (Thursday, February 20) Echo.