Suffolk: Labour leader calls on council to dip into £17m reserves - should the money be used to support the most vulnerable in our community?
PUBLISHED: 06:00 21 January 2014 | UPDATED: 14:44 21 January 2014
County council reserves should be used to ease some of the worst affects of proposed spending cuts, the main opposition at Endeavour House has said.
Labour group leader Sandy Martin said the county’s contingency reserve – money that is not set aside for any specific purposes, but held in case of a “rainy day” – would have increased from £11.4 million on March 31 last year, to £17.1 million on the same day this year.
He said: “At a time when the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition government is slashing funding for councils, it is absurd that Suffolk is still squirrelling money away like this.”
Mr Martin was speaking as the county’s cabinet prepares to debate the budget for the 2014/15 financial year at its cabinet meeting next week.
It is planning to make cuts of £38.6 million over the next 12 months. Among the largest savings will come from the end of the contract with Customer Service Direct (£9 million) and from the start of the new incinerator at Great Blakenham (£8.2 million).
However Labour says the savings will hit those who need support – and says it would be better to use some of its reserves to support these policies.
Cabinet member with responsibility for the budget Colin Noble said the total reserves were coming down from £129 million to £117 million, but individual departments’ reserves had been consolidated – resulting in an increase in the contingency reserve figure.
He said: “We have asked departments to prudently take measures to bring their spending under control which is what we are seeing here.
“I know Labour likes to take spending to the absolute limit and then put up council tax bills, but we prefer a more reasonable approach.”