Waveney tax payers could face inflation busting rise

HOUSEHOLDERS in Waveney could be stung with an above-inflation council tax increase next year if the authority's financial outlook does not improve.Waveney District Council is looking at a potential 3.

HOUSEHOLDERS in Waveney could be stung with an above-inflation council tax increase next year if the authority's financial outlook does not improve.

Waveney District Council is looking at a potential 3.9pc council tax increase to help it deal with increasingly difficult economic conditions and an estimated �13.2m black hole in its finances.

Last year, people living in the district faced a 3.9pc tax rise and that level could be proposed again this year because of the financial challenges the council is facing.

In March, the council was handed a bill from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after it emerged that the government department had calculated the council had overpaid �8.9m in subsidies between 2004 and 2007.

Although work has been going on to provide new evidence for the bill to be recalculated, the council is still not sure whether it will have to pay back the money, which is combined with the need to find �3.4m for urgent repair works to Southwold harbour.

As well as the suggestion that council tax might increase by 3.9pc, a new annual report based on the council's financial 'key assumptions' said that the amount of money it gets from fees, including car parks and sports and leisure charges, may have to increase by up to 4pc.

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A new report from the council said: 'Currently, the council forecasts a considerable budget gap between the money we expect to have to deliver services and the money we will actually need. This gap will need to be met from savings and efficiencies.'

The report also shows that the council could be facing an increased pay bill and higher costs for energy and electricity.

Waveney MP Bob Blizzard has hit out at the council's forecasts. He said: 'It is the ordinary Waveney resident that is being asked to pay for the shocking use of money by this council.

'Most worryingly of all, there is still the possibility of the council having to repay millions to the Department for Work and Pensions. I have spoken to the benefits minister about it, asking her to have the calculations reassessed, but there is no guarantee that the council will be let off the hook.'

Waveney Council leader Mark Bee said: 'Since the 2009/10 budget was approved, economic conditions have deteriorated and there has been an increase in uptake for key services.

'We won't make final decisions on council tax or fees and charges until next year, but our work to prepare Waveney for the future is ongoing. Fees and charges increasing by 4pc and council tax increases of 3.9pc are just two assumptions as part of establishing a baseline budget forecast from which the council will develop its detailed spending plans.

'We can't control the amount of grant we receive from government. This will reflect the ongoing pressures on public sector spending that local authorities are experiencing. A public sector recession is yet to hit, but we are anticipating that significant reductions in support are to come if government is to balance its books. That means more pressure on councils like us.'

People are invited to comment on the council's annual report online at www.waveney.gov.uk