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East Cambridgeshire's tax freeze could mean future cuts

Forecasts show that in 2020/21 the East Cambridgeshire District Council could have a significant budget deficit.
Forecasts show that in 2020/21 the East Cambridgeshire District Council could have a significant budget deficit.

A district council has frozen its share of Council Tax for another year but will have to slash millions off its budget to keep its books balanced.

East Cambridgeshire District Council voted in favour of the freeze on Thursday, meaning rates will remain at £142 – for an average Band D home – for the fifth year in a row.

East Cambridgeshire’s leader, Cllr Charles Roberts, said: “I am incredibly proud of the fact we are one of the few councils in the county with a balanced budget for the next two years and we are able to support our residents by freezing Council Tax for another year.”

Day-to-day budgets are balanced, but the council will borrow £5 million over the course of the financial year to invest in its capital budget.

Forecasts show that in 2020/21 the council could have a significant budget deficit, having to find £2.2 million of cuts that year and £3.3 million the following financial year.

Meanwhile, Forest Heath District Council rubber stamped an increase of £4.95 a year for a band D property – a 3.6 per cent increase – on Wednesday. This will bring its share of Council Tax to £147.33 a year.

Forest Heath, which has a balanced budget for three years, despite the Council Tax hike will continue to have the lowest Council Tax demand in Suffolk.

Council leader Cllr James Waters said: “Making every pound stretch as far as possible is part of our council’s DNA. But we have never been just about keeping the lights on.

“This budget means that we can protect services while creating prosperity.”

In the cabinet meeting February 13, Cllr Waters said the rise would have happened regardless of the creation of a single West Suffolk council, in which Forest Heath will have to increase its rates to align with St Edmundsbury Borough Council.

On February 20 St Edmundsbury agreed to freeze its rates, in part to assist with the transition to a unified West Suffolk council.

Both Suffolk and Cambridge County Council have agreed to increase their rates by 4.99 per cent in an effort to reverse government cuts.

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