County council cuts put on ice

PLANS to cut services and jobs at Conservative-controlled Essex County Council have been temporarily put on hold after the Labour leader Paul Sztumpf "called in" a proposed cabinet decision for scrutiny.

PLANS to cut services and jobs at Conservative-controlled Essex County Council have been temporarily put on hold after the Labour leader Paul Sztumpf "called in" a proposed cabinet decision for scrutiny.

However, the withdrawal of transport funding for some primary schoolchildren was given the go- ahead at a meeting yesterday.

Mr Sztumpf made his widely predicted move to allow the county's Executive and Audit Scrutiny Committee, of which he is chairman, to debate the proposals before they are passed by the cabinet.

The cost-cutting plans, which the Tories believe are essential if they are to avoid raising council tax across the county again this year, could see the privatisation of 12 council-run old peoples' homes.


You may also want to watch:


Budgets would also be slashed in the human resources and communications departments, with a likely loss of jobs.

The environment, heritage and culture budgets would be cut by around £1 million, and savings made from the council's Enterprise fund.

Most Read

Mr Sztumpf said last night that his committee could only make recommendations and would not be able to block any of the proposals outright.

But he added that a motion had been put forward for next week's full council meeting asking all members to commit to keeping one county-run residential home in each of the county's districts.

Conservative Rodney Bass said the cabinet was having to make tough decisions for the year 2004-5 because of central Government's way of granting money to local authorities.

"We have to plan ahead. Rather than doing it in private, we are being totally transparent and saying we have a real problem with the government's funding formula which has deprived Essex of a fair share of the cake.

"We are forced to examine painful and difficult decisions, but we are absolutely convinced we can deliver an improved service for the same money."

Cabinet member for Schools Iris Pummell said yesterday that cuts to some schoolchildren's travel allowance would allow more money to be targeted at the classroom.

As of September 2004, free transport will only be provided for children under the age of eight if they live at least two miles from their designated infant or primary school. For children aged from eight to 11 the distance will be at least three miles.

Mrs Pummell said: "This has been a very difficult decision to make. Our current policy was established when Government funding was far better than it is now. We have to target our money where it is most needed and that is the classroom."

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter