'How we can beat the credit crunch'

AN ACTION plan has been unveiled to help Suffolk's hard-up families and businesses cope with the credit crunch - with 42 measures announced.

Russell Claydon

AN ACTION plan has been unveiled to help Suffolk's hard-up families and businesses cope with the credit crunch - with 42 measures announced.

Political and business leaders held an emergency economic summit in Ipswich yesterday to find ways for people weather the financial storm.

A raft of measures to stimulate the local economy was drawn-up, including a Suffolk County Council pledge to divert £500,000 into local credit unions over the next two years to help people from falling prey to loan sharks.

Councils also promised to work closer with the voluntary sector to reduce their paperwork and gave a cash injection to CABs so they can expand the advice they offer the public.

Local businesses received a boost with the promise local authorities will free up more cash for them by processing their invoices quicker than the normal 30 days.

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A £600 million project to overhaul school buildings in the county is set to be brought forward, with local developers promised contracts.

A plea also went out to the county's residents to utilise the wealth of local shops and services this Christmas, in keeping with the East Anglian Daily Times' Shop Local campaign.

In total 91 delegates met to discuss practical commitments that can be made to help improve a number of areas in the county with the aim of keeping the local economy afloat.

Jeremy Pembroke, Suffolk County Council leader, said: “All these things together collectively can keep the economy going.

“If you keep the economy going you can keep businesses going and if you can keep businesses going you actually will manage to keep employment up.”

He added: “It is all about the question of us playing our roles.”

Neil Watts, Northgate High School headteacher, who chaired the meeting, said: “Whilst we met in challenging times what was very apparent was the sense we can work together.

“The thing to do is to follow through these commitments and make sure they happen. We have made a great start and we need to continue it.”

The commitments are initially setup to run over the next two years, with a view to extending them if the economic conditions have not eased.

Nick Ridley chairman of strategy for Babergh District Council, said: “When people are experiencing financial difficulties they need to be able to rely on the help of Citizen Advice Bureaux and we are putting extra money into CABs and other agencies to enable them to meet the growing demand.

“We also need to support individuals who are threatened by redundancies and the businesses facing difficulties to try to resolve their problems, with practical solutions such as councils committing to paying bills quicker to improve cash flow.”

As part of the summit a website was launched for people to find out where to go for financial help in a range of different areas. It can be found at: www.creditcrunchsuffolk.org.uk.

Suffolk County Council are expected to release the full list of pledges today.

The commitments from the summit include:

Councils to pay invoices quicker to help local businesses' cash flow to stop them going bankrupt.

Provide more money to credit unions to provide loans to local people and stop them using loan sharks.

Create and strengthen support points across Suffolk for advice, to tap into funds for hardship cases which charities may have.

Promote local tourism as an alternative to going abroad, encouraging people to take breaks and holidays in Suffolk to boost the local economy.

Councils helping voluntary organisations to fill out application forms for funding to bring new money into Suffolk.

Increase the advice and access to money available to people who are about to be made redundant in order to re-skill for a new job.

Councils to accelerate investment in local building projects.

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