Local reaction to spending review

ORGANISATIONS across Suffolk and Essex have this afternoon started to give their reaction to the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review.

This follows Chancellor George Osborne’s speech in the House of Commons, where he outlined the four-year plan to make savings in the budget.

- FIRE - Essex County Fire and Rescue Service

Chief fire officer David Johnson has said the Government’s spending review announcement is not good news for Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (ECFRS).

Over the four-year period covered by the review the reduction to the grant, which makes up around half of the overall spend for fire and rescue authorities, will be 25 per cent.


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Reductions for fire and rescue authorities will be weighted to the second half of the spending review period so that organisations have time to prepare.

In real terms for ECFRS, this will mean a 12 to 13 per cent reduction in budget, amounting to some �7.6 million.

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The exact figure will not be known until the local government settlement figure is announced towards the end of the year, but at the moment this is a best estimate.

This does not take into account any further restrictions on council tax increases, which have been frozen for 2010/11.

“We are disappointed – this is not good news for Essex. The level of cuts will mean significant change for the service,” said CFO Johnson.

“The Government has highlighted seven areas where they believe inroads can be made. These are: the introduction of flexible staffing arrangements, improved sickness management, pay restraint and recruitment freezes, shared services and back office functions, improved procurement, sharing chief officers and other senior staff and voluntary amalgamations between fire and rescue authorities.

“Clearly we need to sit down and apply our pre-planning to this level of cut but we have a short period of time to consider all of our options now. A number of areas are still under review, what we need to do now is sit down and find our way through this.”

- DEFENCE - Colchester Garrison and 16 Air Assault Brigade

The annual defence budget of �46.1 billion will be cut by eight per cent over the next four years.

The RAF and navy will lose 5,000 jobs each, the Army 7,000 and the Ministry of Defence 25,000 civilian staff.

The Harrier jump jets and the Ark Royal aircraft carrier are being axed while the planned Nimrod spy planes will be cancelled.

Colchester MP Bob Russell said the Colchester Garrison and 16 Air Assault Brigade, currently deployed to Afghanistan, will not be adversely affected by the cuts.

“Contrary to some speculation, The Royal Marines will not be merged with 16 Air Assault Brigade,” he said. “Nor will 3 Commando Brigade and 16 Air Assault Brigade merge to form a new hybrid brigade.

“The background briefing I have obtained from the Ministry of Defence confirms that there will be no change to Army units involved in Afghanistan which remains the UK’s most important current matter of defence.”

He welcomed the announcement that there will be greater use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and that additional helicopters will be deployed in Afghanistan.

The MP said he would continue to be alert to any moves which may have an impact on operations at Merville Barracks or those serving there, both military and civilian.

- TRANSPORT - A11

Delighted campaigners are celebrating news the long-awaited dualling of the A11 will still go ahead, despite stringent Government budget cuts.

There were cheers in the House of Commons as Chancellor George Osborne today announced the �120 million project to widen the dangerous nine-mile stretch between Barton Mills and Thetford would go ahead.

Mike Brown, founder of the Gateway A11 East pressure group, said today’s decision would cut road deaths and open the area up to new business.

“It is fantastic news,” he said. “We have been waiting a long time for this.

“The uncertainty has now been resolved and we can crack on.”

Matthew Hancock, MP for west Suffolk, welcomed the news, saying he was ‘delighted’ the Government had decided to press ahead with the important scheme.

“This is excellent news for the people of East Anglia and reflects the efforts of many people over many, many years,” he said.

“It is good news for residents, good for business and good for the growth of this area.”

But no mention was made of the scheme to improve a section of the A14 between Ellington near Huntingdon and Fen Ditton.

Speculation is mounting the project may be axed when the Highways Agency announces its future plans next week.

- POLICE

Suffolk Constabulary spoke of the tough challenges ahead after it was announced police forces will have their funding cut by four per cent each year over the next four years.

IChief Constable Simon Ash said: “We know that we are facing an unprecedented financial situation which will see millions of pounds cut from the policing budget.

“It’s going to be a tough challenge, particularly as we are already an extremely efficient force with one of the lowest costs per head of population. However, it’s a challenge we are ready to face and we have already made progress in addressing the funding gap.

“The Chancellor has indicated that the police service will have a four per cent cut to its funding each year for the next four years. However, the exact implications for Suffolk will not be known until later we receive our detailed budget allocation later next month or possibly December.

“The constabulary and police authority have already embarked on programmes designed to save money while ensuring that local people continue to receive a high-quality policing service.

“Collaboration with Norfolk Constabulary has already helped generate savings and a major joint review of departments and units which support the frontline should generate further efficiencies in the months ahead. At the same time, a programme to strip out duplication and unnecessary bureaucracy from all our frontline services is underway and already generating savings.

“We continue to work closely with our local councils and other partners here in Suffolk to improve the efficiency of our services together. In the light of today’s Comprehensive Spending Review announcement, we will continue with our work to make savings – and await more detailed financial information when the Home Office announces next year’s policing grants in a month or so.”

“Be assured, we will continue to provide the best possible service to the public with the financial resources available to us.”

Essex Police said it will have to save a figure in the region of approximately �50 million by 2014.

It said some of these savings result from anticipated cuts in the police grant from the government but there are other financial pressures.

Deputy Chief Constable Andy Bliss said: “We will now study these figures in order to understand the exact consequences for the Essex Police force budget. Together with the Essex Police Authority, we will tailor our plans for savings to fit with the budget we are given. The Chief Constable has said before that we will have to make major changes to the way that we organise policing in Essex in the coming years. As more than 80% of our budget is spent on officer and support staff salaries, there will inevitably be less staff employed by us as we move forward to work in a climate of tighter budgets. We are currently working on a completely new ‘Blueprint’ for policing and are taking the opportunity fundamentally to re-design all aspects of how we deliver our services.”

- EDUCATION

The chancellor has confirmed that schools are to get a real-terms funding increase of �4bn over the next four years, news that was welcomed by Graham Newman, head of education for Suffolk.

Mr Newman said that although much of the detail had yet to be revealed, it seemed that the spending review’s impact on education was “no worse” than had been feared.

He said the schools organisation review, which is currently up to Phase 3A relating to the Sudbury area, would continue as planned but he was not yet certain what impact the cuts would have on the next stage, which affects Stowmarket, Stowupland, Thurston and Bury St Edmunds.

He said: Obviously that is very good news, in real terms it won’t be quite as good as it looks on paper because some elements of cost, such as heating for schools, are bound to go up.

“But it’s much better than having it cut. It’s very encouraging.”

Check this site for more as reaction comes in and buy tomorrow’s paper for full local reaction and analysis of what the cuts will mean for you.

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