Council job cuts confirmed

A CASH-strapped council has confirmed it will shed around 30 posts and is pursuing plans to hike parking charges as it tries to keep council tax rises down.

By John Howard

A CASH-strapped council has confirmed it will shed around 30 posts and is pursuing plans to hike parking charges as it tries to keep council tax rises down.

Mid Suffolk District Council's executive committee met yesterday to discuss a number of cost-cutting measures to tackle a £1.57million budget shortfall - blamed on a poor Government grant.

A spokeswoman said they hoped the impact of the job cuts would be minimised by redeployment into a number of other vacancies within the authority.

"Formal consultation with staff and UNISON will commence on January 6. The proposals mainly affect services such as Leisure and Amenities, ICT and a number of administrative jobs," she added.

Meanwhile, the council has proposed parking charges in Stowmarket increase from April 1. The possible new fees will now go out to public consultation before a final decision is made.

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The cost of season tickets could soar from £208 a year to £1,220 per annum, with quarterly tickets rising from £58.50 to £343.

If approved, the charges at the Ipswich Street, Milton Road and Bury Street car parks would be 50p for up to one hour, a rise of 30p; £1 for up to two hours, a rise of 60p; £1.50 for up to three hours, a rise of 50p; £2 for up to four hours, a rise of 70p and £5 for more than four hours, a rise of £2.50.

There would also be rises at the Meadow Centre and Iliffe Way car parks.

Penny Otton, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: "These are outrageous increases."

But Roger Saunders, Conservative leader of the council, said the state of the finances at the council meant they have to take decisions they would rather not have to.

Councillor Gordon Paton, one of the councillors who represents Stowmarket, said: "I am reluctant to see car parking charges go up, but it is necessary to prevent a council tax rise of eight per cent.''

Ray Lee, the council's assets and contracts manager, said a regeneration study by the Civic Trust had found that if Stowmarket offered the right stores and facilities, shoppers would not be deterred by parking tariffs.

The committee also debated introducing pay and display charges at Needham Market, in Hurstlea Road, the High Street, Station Yard and Needham Lake; at Eye in Cross Street and Buckshorn Lane; and at Debenham in Cross Green. The charges could be from 30p to £2, depending on the length of stay.

Councillors voted to defer a decision until further investigations into the financial aspects of the proposal were drawn up.

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