Locality cuts upset Labour

LABOUR will try to block proposals by the Suffolk Conservatives to cut £250,000 from the annual budgets given to councillors to spend on local initiatives.

By Graham Dines

LABOUR will try to block proposals by the Suffolk Conservatives to cut £250,000 from the annual budgets given to councillors to spend on local initiatives.

Last week, the ruling county council cabinet decided to reduce locality budgets from £1m to £750,000, which works out at £10,000 for each councillor.

The row, which has been referred to the next full meeting of the authority on July 21, is the first major political clash since the Conservatives swept to power in the elections on May 5.


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Locality budgets were introduced in 2000 when Labour was in control, and the council's former leader Bryony Rudkin said community organisations had benefited by more than £4m.

"Projects supported by councillors of all parties on the county council have included new village hall roofs, children's play equipment in parks, new bus shelters, brownie clubs books, and sports initiatives," she said.

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She pointed out that locality budgets had been praised by the Audit Commission as "ambitious and innovative" enabling councillors "to engage more effectively with their communities and fund initiatives".

Mrs Rudkin said: "It is therefore very surprising that the new Conservative administration should attempt to cut the locality budget, especially as the current budget was only approved by the county council in February and no attempt was made by the then conservative opposition to reduce it."

Requesting a debate at the next full council meeting, Mrs Rudkin added: "The decision to consider reducing the size of the locality budget is unnecessary and I cannot understand why the new Conservative cabinet is rushing into this decision.

"I hope by calling in to full council this decision, we will encourage many Conservative members who have made great use of this scheme in their areas to persuade the Tory administration to change its mind."

One of the factors behind the Tory decision was that many councillors did not spend their money immediately, but saved it year after year to then spend it on one big project.

Council leader Jeremy Pembroke said: "We cannot carry on like that. We have to keep track of this money.

"We stand by our decision. Labour councillors were present at the Cabinet meeting when the decision was made and were invited to comment. They did not but have chosen to speak first to the media."

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