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Britain’s first Green-run council has passed a significant milestone with approval of its first budget

Pound coins

Mid Suffolk Full Council met to debate budgets for the 2024/25 year

Introducing the proposals, Councillor Rachel Eburne said:

“This Green Administration wishes to provide quality services to residents and businesses, invest in the district for the future while exercising good financial management.

In the long term, this means ensuring the finances are secure, despite a really significant drop in Government funding over the years and future uncertainty, while investing in the district so that our communities are thriving and more resilient – socially, environmentally and economically.”

The new council has spent its early months going through the finances uncovering some concerning issues while starting to get more done. There is more work to be done to revisit the long term strategy, securing finances against future uncertainty.

The modest 2% rise in Council Tax takes account of:

  • Rising costs affected by inflation and interest rates
  • Increased council tax receipts due to increased population
  • Recent increases in business rates
  • Reductions in Government funding.
Rachel Eburne

Continuing, Cllr Eburne added:

“We need to plan for the next decade, with a robust financial strategy.  We have had years of the previous Administration hoarding cash and not spending it in our district on what matters – but where we undertake longer term projects, we will not put forward unfunded business cases, as we have inherited, but ensure full due diligence and consultation is done in line with our priorities.

We will have a capital programme that invests in new foot and cycling paths, housing for those most in need, in ensuring everyone has access to a green space, in land for biodiversity and in our vibrant town centres.

We’ve already put some of this into practice with a home insulation scheme, grants for community bus services, greater consultation with communities, support with flooding and plans for improved biodiversity.

Turning to the separate Housing budget, Cllr Eburne said:

“A real interrogation of the housing finances has taken place.  This has uncovered a variety of issues – some easily solvable and some not so.  Certainly not the financially robust position we were led to believe we were inheriting.”

The Housing Revenue Account (HRA) is the ringfenced account from which all aspects of council housing are managed and financed. It will be supported by a 30-year business plan and survey of all the council’s property. With 3350 homes, housing about 8000 people, the council wants to maintain safe, secure, environmentally efficient homes. To afford this, a rent rise of 7% is proposed, in line with Government recommendations.

Cllr Eburne added:

“During the current financial year we have effectively had to pay for two years of housing repairs in one as well as deal with a multitude of compliance issues.  And these are issues that should have been dealt with in the past.  Additionally, mistakes in last year’s budget are having to be rectified by us.”

“We also want to continue to invest in housing for residents of Mid Suffolk within the limits of the constrained finances, and we want to deliver low carbon homes that are secure and low maintenance.”