New £3million pot announced for Suffolk projects

The funding could be used for new cycle lanes in Suffolk Picture: GREGG BROWN

The funding could be used for new cycle lanes in Suffolk Picture: GREGG BROWN

A £3million pot has been formed to fund projects such as new speed cameras, electric charging points or new cycle lanes over 12 months.

Suffolk County Council's finance cabinet member Gordon Jones unveiled the Suffolk 2020 fund this morning - a one year fund which organisations can bid for a share of.

Bids between £50,000 and £500,000 will be accepted within 100 days of the new financial year, and will be for Suffolk-wide projects.

Mr Jones said nothing is ruled out, so could be used for schemes such as new cycle lanes, electric charging points, road safety schemes, automatic numberplate recognition cameras, tree planting or other projects.

He said: "I think it's quite exciting to take the opportunity to continue to engage with the communities and respond to some of our priorities.

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"These are really significant and if there is an opportunity for match-funding the projects can be even better. It's not essential but it can provide an opportunity to kick start some really exciting and sizeable projects."

Community groups, parish and town councils and other organisations can make an expression of interest for the cash through their county councillor, which must then be backed by a cabinet member at Suffolk County Council.

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The bid will then be assessed in a second stage and, if approved, will be publicly announced.

It is understood that the one-year financial settlement from central government, which effectively dictates how much the council will get, has enabled the fund to happen because that money would normally be absorbed in other departments across a financial settlement of several years.

Mr Jones confirmed those bids could only be for one off project costs, rather than being used to prop up running costs of any project or organisation.

The council currently has cross-party task groups investigating measures to help with climate issues and provision for cycling, and Mr Jones said the fund could well be used to help fund recommendations from those groups.

Mr Jones added: "Nothing is ruled out and nothing is ruled in, but we are making the most of what we have got."

The rest of the council's budget first draft is set to be published today.

Sarah Adams, leader of the Labour Group at Suffolk County Council said: "Any additional money for our cash starved public services is welcomed, however, we must recognise that this is only a one-year fund.

"It will not address the chronic underfunding of front-line public services in Suffolk which are in dire need of sustained investment.

"It appears the Conservatives have adopted a short term and haphazard approach to spending, with the likely result of this fund being a patchwork of schemes and projects.

"Instead, the council should have a long-term strategy for future investment to ensure maximum benefit for the people and communities that need it most."

Penny Otton, leader of the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group, said: "I'm pleased that the council are providing funding for projects like electric vehicle charging and cycle lanes - these are really important for our response to the climate crisis.

"I hope the bidding process won't be too bureaucratic, and that there is a strategic approach from the council to ensure that Suffolk benefits as a whole.

"Given that there is also a financial crisis in social care and SEND services, we are slightly surprised that this funding pot has been announced in advance of the council's scrutiny of the budget, without discussion with councillors."

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