Suffolk County Council to share more services with neighbours Essex and Norfolk as it looks to cut budgets

Suffolk County Council is looking at next year's budget.

Suffolk County Council is looking at next year's budget. - Credit: Archant

Suffolk County Council will have to share many more services with other public sector organisations in the region, councillors have been told.

The authority has already signed up to share more services with Norfolk County Council and talks are underway with Essex.

Shared services need not be confined to other local authorities – county council leader Mark Bee told yesterday’s meeting of its scrutiny committee that it was working closely with health bodies and the police in an attempt to avoid duplicating services.

And chief executive Deborah Cadman said talks were taking place with the government’s Department of Work and Pensions to try to achieve a seamless benefits system for those unable to work.

The scrutiny committee spent the day looking at the council’s proposals to cut almost £42 million from its budget next year.

Mr Bee said it was necessary to look at transforming the way the council operates: “This is not a short-term austerity programme. We cannot deal with this through salami-slicing services. We have to make structural changes.”

Finance spokeswoman Jenny Antill said it was necessary to look at all services, especially those that the council were not required by the government to provide.

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However opposition leader Sandy Martin was concerned that the council was looking at cutting too deeply – and that these cuts could cut its statutory services.

He was also alarmed by proposed cuts of £200,000 a year to the voluntary sector – half is expected to affect charities providing care services while the rest may hit arts and cultural grants.

Mr Martin said: “I don’t think the large care providers will be hit by this, but it could really affect some of the smaller groups who provide relatively simple services like visiting people and collecting their shopping. A cut for some charities like that could push them out of business.”