Ipswich Borough Council Leader: Councillor David Ellesmere
Ipswich Borough Council Leader: Councillor David Ellesmere

On Wednesday the Chancellor of the Exchequer sets out his latest budget and spending plans.

Historically, Chancellors resigned if they leaked details of their budget. Not anymore. There have been so many leaks over the weekend that it makes you wonder if Rishi Sunak will have anything else left to announce on Wednesday.

I certainly hope that’s not the case as there has been absolutely no mention so far of help for local government.

Councils across the country saw their finances take a huge knock from Covid – both from extra expenditure to help vulnerable people and from a loss of income. The money Ipswich Borough Council has received from the Government to cover these losses is several million pounds short of the true financial hit.

There are increasing signs that the Government is expecting councils to make up this shortfall by increasing council tax.  This is the Conservative’s favourite stealth tax – over the last five years council tax has gone up for Ipswich residents by more than a fifth.

But within this figure, there are startling differences. Labour-run Ipswich Borough Council’s council tax for an average Band B home has gone up by £33 but the Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner has increased his bill by £50 and Conservative-run Suffolk County Council have increased theirs by a massive £193.

If the Government doesn’t provide extra funding it looks like we will be seeing big increases in council tax next year as well.

A large part of Suffolk County Council’s increase has been an “Adult Social Care Precept” which, since its introduction by the Conservatives five years ago, is now raking in £37million from Suffolk’s council taxpayers.

Boris Johnson’s National Insurance increase is supposed to “fix social care once and for all” but there are no signs that the social care precept will now be abolished and, in fact, it is likely to increase even further.

It would take a particularly out of touch Government to impose big increases in council tax on top of soaring fuel bills, more expensive food, increasing National Insurance and cutting £1,000 from Universal Credit payments – but that does appear to be where we’re heading.

Let’s hope I’m wrong when the Chancellor announces his budget on Wednesday.

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