Labour tries to reverse cuts to county council services in Suffolk

Labour has promised to reverse fire service cuts, like that which has reduced the number of applianc

Labour has promised to reverse fire service cuts, like that which has reduced the number of appliances in Princes Street in Ipswich.

Labour councillors in Suffolk are trying to reverse some cuts that have been made to services in the county over recent months.

The opposition group at the county council has tabled an amendment to the budget proposals that are due to be discussed by the Conservative-led authority at its meeting next week.

They want to increase spending by £16million a year over the next four years – taking money from the council’s reserves.

And they reject claims from the administration that this would leave the council’s reserves dangerously low.

Labour wants to increase spending on children’s services, on adult services and on road maintenance – especially filling in potholes.

It also wants to reverse many of the fire service cuts that were introduced last year.

Finance spokesman Len Jacklin said “The initial payments will come from the £190million in reserves.

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“We predict that finances will improve over the next four years – spending now to help people avoid the need for more expensive services will begin to pay off by 2020.”

The administration says that most of its reserves are committed to specific projects, and that there is only £48m available to spend. But Labour rejects that argument.

Group leader Sandy Martin said: “They say most of the reserves are committed, but they’ve been saying they are committed for years and the administration knows that many of the projects the reserves are for will never happen.”

That argument was rejected by cabinet member for finance Richard Smith.

He said: “My view of the Labour amendment is that it is financially dangerous.

“They are proposing to take a further £15.5m out of reserves next year on top of the £8.5m we are planning to use. That makes £24m.

“Given that the usable reserves are only £48m that would cut them in half in just one year – and then you would have to continue to fund the services in future years.”

He said the total reserves were nearer £140m than £190m. “And it is not true that we do not use them – they are allocated for new schools, road improvements and the two river crossings in Ipswich and Lowestoft. Labour’s arguments are very dangerous on this.”