Suffolk: Locality budget changes welcomed

County councillors Colin Spence and John Sayers donated £2,000 from their locality budgets to the Su

County councillors Colin Spence and John Sayers donated £2,000 from their locality budgets to the Sudbury Market Town Partnership, which was instrumental in helping to set up Food Bank collections at Waitrose - Credit: Archant

Changes that have increased the annual budgets allocated to county councillors for community projects have been welcomed by recently elected members.

For this financial year, councillors will each receive a fixed rate locality budget of £12,000 and an £8,000 highways budget, which replaces the former “quality of life” budget.

Previously, the resources varied depending on the size of the population that each councillor represented, and the locality funding ranged from £7,960 to £17,530 each year.

The county’s cabinet recently voted to abandon this scheme, to make it an equal £20,000 total per year for every councillor until May 2017.

This means the total cost of the locality budgets will increase by £127,500 per annum next year.

Locality budgets can be used for any community project, but the local highways budget is to be spent on the likes of road repairs or traffic schemes.

Sudbury East and Waldingfield councillor Colin Spence, who has just been re-elected after eight years in the post, has used his highways budget to fund a number of key traffic projects including a pedestrian rest on Waldingfield Road, village gateways for Acton and dropped kerbs in parts of Sudbury.

Most Read

He said: “Through my locality budget over the years, I have tried very hard to support all sections of the communities across the whole division in a fair and positive way.

“The council wants us to develop our roles as local community leaders and having access to a bit of funding is really important in that respect.

“It’s a really good scheme and I have managed to save up my quality of life budget over a period of years to fund some quite significant highways projects.”

Mr Spence’s locality budget has also helped pay for the installation of CCTV cameras in Chilton, as well as part-funding a defibrillator for Sudbury town hall and supporting the establishment of a local history society in Little Waldingfield.

Brian Riley has just been elected to the county’s Hadleigh division.

He said he will be sending out a newsletter asking how people would like to see the money spent.

Mr Riley added: “I have already been approached to use some of the highways budget to change signs on the A12 to include a warning of the weight restriction through Hadleigh.

“I am very conscious, though that it is taxpayers’ money.

“I would like to spread the budget around so that it makes a difference, or makes life sweeter for, the dozens of organisations out there that are under pressure because discretionary income is reducing.”

A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council added: “Locality and local highways budgets are very important as they allow councillors to allocate local authority money to grass roots initiatives and projects that really matter to the community they represent.”