Suffolk: Council plans ‘will hit county’s economy’

A local “Suffolk recession” is a real risk if Suffolk County Council goes ahead with plans to make changes to the way it provides its services, a union has warned today.

At a meeting taking place this morning, Unison has told how the proposed plans to divest its services to other organisations will lead to “many redundancies” of county council staff.

But the report says that in the event of large job losses, it will put “severe pressure” on Suffolk’s economic base.

Steve Warner, a senior service conditions officer for the Suffolk branch of Unison warned at the moment hundreds of jobs are likely to go he fears “it will thousands”.

He said: “We are worried that they will make changes to public services that the people of Suffolk did not vote for.”

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Explaining the impacts facing Suffolk Neil McInroy of the Centre for Local Economic Strategies, who carried out the research, said Suffolk County Council plans are “extraordinarily ambitious”.

He looked at the question of whether the local economy has the ability to absorb the public sector job losses, how agile the economy in Suffolk is and how it will cope.

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He said as a small economy with a lack of large firms to absorb those left unemployed, Suffolk will struggle.

The geographical nature of the economy, many small self-contained rural economic areas will leave it more vulnerable than large cities where the job losses could be easily absorbed by close, neighbouring economic hubs.

The report says that market towns, such as Newmarket, Bury St Edmunds and Mildenhall, are “not conducive” to absorbing large numbers of job cuts from the public sector.

Another factor highlighted in the report was the reliance in Suffolk on the retail sector. Mr McInroy warned with public sector jobs lost, fewer people would be able to spend money in the local economy which will have a direct impact on the retail sector, which employs a quarter of people in the county.

Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds, towns where a high proportion of people are employed in the public sector could be more at risk, according to Mr McInroy.

He said: “In Ipswich 31% of people are employed in the public sector and in Bury St Edmunds that figure is 29%.

“Both towns are highly dependant on public sector employment and will be particularly vulnerable to the job losses.”

Mr McInroy also warned the county’s small social sector may not be up to the task of taking on and managing frontline services as divestment happens.

He said: “In Suffolk there is a strong social sector but it is small and not as able to pick up service delivery.”

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