Jason Noble Local Democracy Reporter
Plans to increase council tax in Mid Suffolk from April have been narrowly approved - while an extra £4million has been committed to helping with the Covid-19 recovery in 2021.
Mid Suffolk District Council's 2021/22 budget was approved by 17 votes to 16, with one abstention on Thursday night, meaning the Mid Suffolk element of the council tax bill will rise by 1.66%, or £2.80 a year extra for a Band D home.
However, since proposals were first unveiled in December the Conservative and Independent administration has pledged £4m to spend in four key areas to help the district recover from the coronavirus pandemic - the economy, housing, communities and wellbeing.
Those funds will be committed to projects agreed with the opposition Green and Liberal Democrat group, likely to encompass some of the measures the opposition group put forward in an amendment that was later withdrawn.
Conservative council leader Suzie Morley said: "This is not a time just to be prudent, this is a time to be investing in our district to ensure it doesn't just swiftly bounce back from the devastating impacts of the Covid pandemic, but is able to thrive."
Conservative cabinet member for finance, John Whitehead, said that the council tax increase equated to less than 1p per day for a Band D home, with the £104,000 generated from the council tax increase going into a ringfenced Covid business recovery fund.
Mr Whitehead said it would "help our local businesses first recover and then thrive once again".
The opposition Green and Liberal Democrat group had tabled a series of amendments, which included an additional one-off grant of £50,000 for food banks, £50,000 extra for the Citizens Advice services and extra cash for planning enforcement.
That amendment was withdrawn on the agreement that cross-party taskforces will decide where the £4m extra is spent, but opposition councillors said they still could not support the budget.
Group leader Rachel Eburne pointed to the authority's high level of reserves and historic underspends which she said "seems excessive" while calling for the administration to "stop hoarding".
Green councillor Andrew Mellen added:
"I think this budget is a missed opportunity. There was an opportunity here to send a message of support to our residents by budgeting for a freeze in council tax this year. "Residents and households are struggling with the pandemic, with uncertainty, and financial stress, and I think people will also struggle to understand why a council so flushed with funds needs to increase tax."
The sum will be added to the Suffolk County Council portion of the council tax bill agreed last week, as well as the policing precept and town and parish councils.