Education to spared in round of cuts

EDUCATION is to be exempted from a 2% cut in services next year as Suffolk councillors struggle to avoid another massive council tax rise.Service departments such as social care, libraries and heritage, environment, transport, highways, and consumer and public protection will bear the brunt of the budget cuts.

EDUCATION is to be exempted from a 2% cut in services next year as Suffolk councillors struggle to avoid another massive council tax rise.

Service departments such as social care, libraries and heritage, environment, transport, highways, and consumer and public protection will bear the brunt of the budget cuts.

The public outcry over this year's 18.5% rise in tax bills has forced the Labour-Liberal Democrat controlled authority to launch a major public consultation exercise in the autumn on what priority to give the council's spending plans.

In the next six months, the departments will have to make savings of 2% as part of the county council's efforts to improve cost effectiveness.

Although the county council last December received an increase in Government grant of around twice the rate of inflation, council tax was raised by 18.5% because of the increase in school pupils and the need to provide services for an increasing elderly population.

The Government, which also failed to adequately finance mandatory initiatives, especially in education, introduced a policy of deliberately diverting millions of pounds of support to councils in the north of England and away from the south and east.

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The county council will launch a budget consultation exercise in September, which will be based around a roadshow visiting venues across the county, and meetings to discuss budget issues.

David Rowe, executive committee member with responsibility for strategic and financial planning, said: "Next year's budget looks set to be a challenging process but again we are committed to delivering improved services.

"Our budget will be policy led and based on our priorities. We are setting

out to achieve a balance between meeting the needs of service users and

making sure that the charge to council tax payers is reasonable."

He added: "This process is about looking at where we are spending money

and using resources now, and asking the question – 'do we need to?'"

Suffolk County Council's executive committee will discuss the proposals on

strategic and financial planning for 2004/5 on Thursday, August 7.