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Suffolk: Tough times ahead for local authorities as county looks at cutting £25m from spending

PUBLISHED: 09:14 27 November 2012

Deborah Cadman and Mark Bee

Deborah Cadman and Mark Bee

Archant

THE £25 million in cuts facing Suffolk County Council next year could be easy to achieve in comparison with the squeeze in years ahead, the chief executive said yesterday.

The blunt message to councillors was delivered as the authority began discussions over next year’s budget.

Deborah Cadman warned members of the county’s scrutiny committee that budgets in future years were likely to be much more difficult than that for 2013/14.

Ms Cadman told the committee she was delighted at the progress since she took over as chief executive a year ago.

She said: “It (the county council) was derailed a bit. It was not a train crash, but the organisation needed to be put back on the rails and now we are gathering pace.”

There were some exceptional and committed staff at the council – and real progress was being made.

However the “choppy waters” ahead would see government funding for local authorities fall significantly in future years and this would lead to some difficult choices being faced.

Her comments were taken up by council leader Mark Bee, who said the difficult times faced by councils over the last four years were not likely to get any better.

“It might be raining, but this is not a rainy day. It is climate change – and we have to realise that these more austere times are going to last into the 2020s and perhaps into the 2030s.”

He said the days of seeing budgets rise and the number of services offered by councils increasing was now over – and it was difficult to foresee a return to the “sunny uplands” of the earlier years of the century.

In response to a question from Labour group leader Sandy Martin, Mr Bee said the council was lobbying the government for more support and he was due to see local government Secretary Eric Pickles in the near future.

However it needed to be accepted that budgets were being cut – while demand for some services, particularly those for vulnerable older people, were likely to increase dramatically.

And answering a question from Liberal Democrat David Grutchfield, Mr Bee said the council would be trying to use locally-based contractors as much as possible when there was work to be done.

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