Hopes high for return of free swimming for Babergh children in 2022
- Credit: Archant
Hopes of reintroducing free summer swimming sessions for youngsters in Babergh from 2022 have been voiced by council chiefs, as the first draft of the 2021/22 budget was approved.
Babergh District Council's budget is proposing a council tax rise of just under 3% from April 2021 - around £5 per year extra for a Band D home, while the garden waste collection fees are set to rise by £2.50.
Other savings in the draft budget include relocating its customer access point in Sudbury to save £30,000 and axing the free summer swimming sessions for children to generate £38,000.
The council has also proposed controversial plans to reduce the free parking length from three hours to 30 minutes to help cut the amount the authority must subsidise it by, although a decision on that matter has been pushed back to next month so that a full debate can take place.
The council's cabinet unanimously approved the first draft budget at its meeting on Thursday night, but Conservative leader of the council's rainbow coalition, John Ward, said he hoped the swimming sessions could return in 12 months time.
"The free swim was very popular, and certainly with the imminent opening of the new pool in Hadleigh I am sure that will have a huge number of people wanting to use it," he said.
"I would very much expect and hope that we can reintroduce this in the following year."
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Mr Ward said that the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic has had a big impact on the council's finances, and added: "It's no exaggeration to say we have had to prepare this budget under the most challenging of circumstance.
"The financial impact of Covid this year has been constantly evolving and our initially very worrying assumption has been ameliorated by the very very generous government support.
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"We must continue with our efforts to become self-sufficient by maximising our income streams, continuing to make efficiencies and productivity savings and continue to find new ways of working."
Robert Lindsay, leader of the council's Green group, has questioned the merit of changing car park charges until an investment plan for walking, cycling and bus improvements is carried out to encourage more sustainable forms of transport.
"The danger is that without that any income raised from car park charging will disappear into general funding and that long desired investments in buses, cycling and walking will never materialise," he said.
The budget is to be debated by scrutiny committee before returning to cabinet and full council next month.