Suffolk doesn’t expect help from the Chancellor in this autumn’s budget

Green councillor Andrew Stringer pointed out he had built more houses in his part-time job than Barl

Green councillor Andrew Stringer pointed out he had built more houses in his part-time job than Barley Homes. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Local authorities should not expect much help from the government in this autumn’s budget – that was the blunt warning from Suffolk County Council’s finance spokesman at its cabinet meeting.

Richard Smith SuffolK County Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance and Assets

Richard Smith SuffolK County Councils Cabinet Member for Finance and Assets - Credit: Archant

Richard Smith was outlining the reasons behind the authority’s predicted £8m overspend – and what was being planned to reduce that figure in the run-up to preparing next year’s budget.

He was asked by the leader of the Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group Andrew Stringer whether Suffolk got better treatment from a Conservative government because it was a Conservative-controlled council.

By Mr Smith held out little hope of a giveaway in the budget: “I think the chancellor will help the NHS and education. I think defence might do a bit better – but I don’t think local authorities can expect much extra help.

“We are lobbying government all the time, but I don’t expect us to be at the top of their list.”

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Council leader Matthew Hicks backed this up: “We are talking to the government all the time, through the Local Government Association and the County Council Network – but we don’t always shout about that.

“But you have to remember Suffolk is a well-run council which is why we are not in the kind of situation there is in Northamptonshire.”

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The cabinet also agreed to transfer the county’s stake in Barley Homes to its partners in the venture St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath councils.

Mr Smith said the £250,000 put into the company would be repaid once the first homes were developed: “If I knew two and a half years ago what I know now about council-run development companies like this, then we would not have taken this step, but there should be no cost to the council,” he said.

However that was disputed by Mr Stringer – who pointed out he had built more homes over the last three years than Barley Homes, which has yet to apply for planning permission for any buildings.

He said: “There has been a cost in officer time – and in the lost opportunity to build homes that people desperately need.

“There has also been a loss in the council tax that could have been paid and the general benefit of having more economic activity from the people who could have been living in those homes.”

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