Suffolk County Council facing more tough budget choices

AS MEMBERS of Suffolk County Council’s cabinet gathered to discuss next year’s budget there was a blunt warning that things could get even tougher in future.

The county is trying to find spending cuts of �43 million in the first of a three-year austerity programme that could see the council’s budget shrink by �125million.

And as they discussed cuts yesterday on Tuesday, which many cabinet members accept could be painful, there was a gloomy warning from deputy leader Jane Storey, who is responsible for resource management at the county, that next year could be even worse.

She said: “It is likely for next year’s budget we may have to look at significant savings – possibly more than this year.”

Her cabinet colleague Colin Noble welcomed the fact that this year’s budget would enable the county council to freeze its element of council tax.

Suffolk’s council tax has been a potent political issue since bills were increased 18pc by the former Labour/LibDem administration in 2003.

Mr Noble said: “I am delighted we are proposing no council tax rise this year.”

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He said there had been tough decisions for all the cabinet members – but the county was determined to support the most vulnerable members of society.

Before the cabinet meeting, Guy McGregor, the councillor with responsibility for transport, accepted petitions from school crossing patrol staff anxious about the future of that service.

A group of lollipop ladies came down from Waveney and were joined by another from Ipswich, alongside local Labour activists who had organised the petition.

Mr McGregor said he had ensured that the patrols would be able to continue operating until the end of the summer term to give schools and parents the opportunity to find other ways of running them.

The Sidegate Lane patrol, in Ipswich, is to be sponsored by estate agent Jonathan Waters and Mr McGregor remains hopeful others could follow the same course.

He said: “We have managed to ensure they can remain in place until July. I am very hopeful that with that extra time, more patrols will be able to find other funding from schools, PTAs, or sponsors.”

After getting the approval of the cabinet, the full council will debate the administration’s budget at its next meeting at Endeavour House on February 17.