News From Your District Councillors
Further rapid flow Covid-19 testing facilities have been opened at various locations around the district, including Blackbourne Community Centre in Elmswell and the Museum of East Anglian Life in Stowmarket. These are for
people who are not displaying symptoms. It is possible to turn up on spec but preferable to make an appointment: www.suffolk.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/getting-a-test.
Elections are to go ahead on May 6. Residents will be able to vote for their county councillor and the Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner. There will also be some Neighbourhood Plan referenda on the same date, including Woolpit and Drinkstone. Polling stations will be Covid-safe but it is expected that there will be many more postal votes. You must be registered by 19 April in order to vote and if you want a postal ballot paper the deadline is 20 April. Proxy vote applications must be received by 27 April.
Brown bin waste collections resumed on March 8. Subscribers will have their payments adjusted to account for the missing collections.
The General Fund budget was agreed at the February council meeting. There is to be a 1.66% increase in council tax despite budgeting for over £3M surplus each year for the next three years. Cross-party working groups are to be set up to decide how to spend approx £4M across all parts of the organisation to help in the recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Housing Revenue Account budget was also agreed. Council house rent is to increase by CPI+1% (this equates to approx £1.25 per week). Sheltered Housing service charges are to go up by £1 per week, but there are no changes to Sheltered Housing utility charges or garage rents. The council has a Capital programme 2021-24 to develop 254 affordable homes and 119 shared ownership homes. MSDC has engaged Iceni Homes to identify development sites. Over the next three years, it is hoped to bring forward sites at Cedars Park, Bacton and Haughley. MSDC are also bidding for S106 acquisitions in several new developments all over the district.
The latest financial report shows that MSDC incurred additional costs due to Covid-19 of £1.1m and a reduction in income of £950k. All but £138k of these losses has been reimbursed via central government grants.
The anticipated total underspend for the current year to the end of March 2021 is £1.8m. The underspend on staff due to unfilled vacancies is £450k. Many key areas of provision of much-needed services to our residents are under-spent. The target for commercial investment across the country is likely to be met despite a huge loss in the value of the property portfolio.
The medium-term forecast is that by the end of March 2021 MSDC will have built up a cash surplus of £8m, excluding New Homes Bonus which is expected to be £1.6m in 2020/21.
Gateway 14 is part of the successful Freeport East bid. The Freeports initiative will allow firms to import goods and then re-export them outside normal tax and customs rules. Freeports will enjoy a combination of tariff benefits, tax incentives, and regeneration funding. This designation will help to attract high-value manufacturing companies to locate at the Stowmarket site and will be a real boost for the local economy.
The council has completed the procurement process and appointed a contractor to build the Needham Lake Visitor Centre and Café. The facility is a high quality and environmentally sustainable building which will become a real asset to the Lakes as a tourist attraction and as a benefit to the local community.