Councils strive to keep charges fair – and help those most in need
Council leaders at Babergh and Mid Suffolk are due to discuss future fees and charges for council services – pledging to keep increases fair and continue to support those in need.
Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils’ cabinets will both meet on Monday 9 January, to agree proposed fees and charges for a range of council services in 2023/24.
Also on the agenda for January’s cabinet meetings is further help for those most in need – and the possibility of zero council tax for the poorest households in Babergh and Mid Suffolk.
Fees and charges are a vital revenue stream for local authorities – helping to sustain essential services for residents and communities.
Proposed changes to fees and charges for a range of council services next year cover statutory charges – which are set nationally and which the councils cannot control, such as licensing and building control – and discretionary charges for non-essential services, such as bulky item or garden waste collections.
For most people, the main change would be an increase in the cost of garden waste collections from next April, with renewals going to £59 – an increase of £2 for customers in Babergh and £4.50 for those in Mid Suffolk. New customers will pay £69, still only the equivalent of £2.65 for each fortnightly collection.
If agreed, the new fees and charges will bring in just over £4m for Babergh District Council, equivalent to 11% of the council’s gross expenditure, and £5.4m for Mid Suffolk – equivalent to 15% of gross expenditure.
The expected revenue from fees and charges can then be built into the draft general fund budgets for both councils for 2023/24, which also determines the level of council tax residents will have to pay next year.
Cllr John Whitehead, cabinet member for finance for Mid Suffolk District Council, said:
"Our residents and communities rely upon us to deliver essential services – now more than ever – and yet we are facing rising costs and appreciate that our residents and businesses are feeling the pinch too.
"Our fees and charges for non-essential services provide a valuable revenue stream for us to help balance our books while still trying providing value for money for those who use them.”
Cllr David Busby, cabinet member for finance for Babergh District Council, said:
"We face a tricky balancing act in keeping our fees and charges affordable for everyone already under financial pressure. While we have no option to put up some charges, we’ve also managed some reductions. We are being as fair as possible.”
Also on the agenda for January’s cabinet meetings is a decision over how the council should run their Council Tax Reduction Scheme for 2023-24 – offering further help for those most in need.
Proposals would see council tax bills reduced by up to 100% for working age adults with the lowest incomes, simplifying the scheme for those on Universal Credit – particularly those with fluctuating monthly earnings – and the introduction of a transitional protection scheme seeks to ensure that no one will be worse off under the changes.
Cllr Busby, said:
"We need a system where people make a fair contribution towards council services without unnecessary means testing or costly recalculations of awards for those with fluctuating earnings."
Cllr Whitehead, said:
"Our current scheme is administratively burdensome. As well as offering much needed support to those most in need, these proposals could also see us save as much as £75k-£150K a year in administration costs.”