For the many, not the few – Suffolk axe to fall on transport and road spending

Rural bus services, like those provided by Galloways in Suffolk, are likely to be under considerable

Rural bus services, like those provided by Galloways in Suffolk, are likely to be under considerable pressure in the new county council budget. Picture: PAUL GEATER - Credit: Archant

Things are getting tight at Suffolk County Council – and next year’s budget is going to be even more challenging than it has faced this year.

Residents are going to notice cutbacks as the authority looks to reduce costs – and it is services used by almost everyone that are likely to face most cutbacks.

The county has no real choice in this – the government funding for local councils is very tight – and Suffolk remains in a better position than many authorities.

But things are getting tighter.

The council is, many would say rightly, targeting its expenditure at those who need it most – providing services to children and adults who need care.

These two functions now eat up almost 75% of the authorities budget. Those who receive these benefits rely on them to a very great extent . . . but it is only a comparatively small minority of Suffolk’s population who do depend on those benefits.

The council will be increasing its spending in these areas, but that means costs are going to be cut elsewhere.

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And they are areas that affect far more people – albeit not to as great an extent as those in direct receipt of council-funded care.

Transport and highways is an area where cuts will really be noticed. It looks as if there could be a cull of local bus services early next year.

The council says these may be replaced by more “community transport” – but to those used to going to the local bus stop to get on a service to the nearest town, it isn’t always clear how that will operate.

There are likely to be cuts to maintenance of road signs and only basic repairs to road markings – potentially these cuts could pose a danger to road users and could certainly end up with people describing the county as “Shabby Suffolk.”

And the council is also looking to save money on gritting routes – although when it comes to that budget it is really is in the hands of the weather gods!

Cabinet member for finance Richard Smith was reflective, even downbeat, as he explained the situation the county is in. But Suffolk is in a good place compared with some other counties like Northamptonshire, Surrey, Somerset and East Sussex.

However Mr Smith does warn that at the present rate its reserves only have four to six years left – and that is clearly concerning.

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