Suffolk: County council’s budget set to go to full meeting
Suffolk County Council’s cabinet has formally approved the budget for the 2014/15 financial year – and it will now go to a full meeting next month.
The budget will see £38.6 million of spending cuts across most services at Endeavour House, but cabinet member with responsibility for the budget Colin Noble said the authority was taking care not to harm those who relied on its services.
He said: “We have consulted very widely on this budget, the biggest budget consultation we have ever done – and that has resulted in these proposals.”
There are changes to the way services are organised, and a saving of about £8 million in landfill taxes when the county’s incinerator – or energy from waste plant – at Great Blakenham starts operating in the middle of the year.
Mr Noble was proud that the council was honouring its pledge not to raise council taxes next year – and repeated the administration’s pledge to freeze council tax at its present level until the next elections in 2017.
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Labour group leader Sandy Martin repeated his call for the council to use some of its contingency reserves to ease the pressure on some services.
He pointed out that this part of the council’s reserves was budgeted to increase from £11 million to £17 million next year.
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However Mr Noble said the reserves held by individual departments were being cut, and the council’s overall reserves were falling.
Labour councillor Mandy Gaylard hit out at the council’s transfer of libraries: “Surveys said 80% of people wanted libraries to remain as a publicly-funded service but the county went ahead with getting rid of them.”
Mr Noble hit back, pointing out that all the county’s libraries had remained open, and they were still funded by the county although they are now run by a social enterprise.
He added that Suffolk is now developing a national reputation for local authority efficiency. Mr Noble said that six districts or boroughs in the county now shared administrations – and there were only 40 shared administrations across the county.
Council leader Mark Bee said the process of drawing up the budget had been challenging, but felt there was a wide agreement that it would protect services while cutting costs.
He said: “When I became leader three years ago I said I didn’t want to see the council run by dogma, but by consulting the people and listening to what they have to say.
“We continue to do this. The budget process involved talking to 4,000 people across the county – and the majority of them are happy with the way things are run in Suffolk.”
The budget will be finally set at the full county council meeting at Endeavour House in Ipswich on February 13.