Suffolk to help people through recession

A POT of money is to be set aside by Suffolk County Council to help residents and businesses through the recession.

Graham Dines

A POT of money is to be set aside by Suffolk County Council to help residents and businesses through the recession.

The cash will be used from the projected under-use of the council's £3.5million contingency fund, which was set up as a hedge against unexpected emergencies, insurance claims and shortfalls in income.

At the same time, the council is facing a number of extra commitments, including a slump in people using the three park-and-ride services into Ipswich, and an upsurge in the number of vulnerable children

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who need to be looked after.

The county council's cabinet will be asked to approve the set-aside at its meeting next week. The director of resource management Graham Dixon said that with the downturn in the economy, the county's budget could come under pressure.

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“Additionally, the council is examining initiatives that will assist individuals and businesses in these difficult times, and such targeted resources will be taken from contingency or selected use of reserves,” he said.

“Any underspending on the contingency is usually added to the County Fund at year end but in the light of the deteriorating economic situation, it is recommended that this underspending be transferred to a specific earmarked reserve to address the impacts of the recession on the demand for council services, on individuals and businesses.”

The county's budget for children and young people is facing a £1.3m overspend because of the number of youngsters who need to be looked after by outside agencies. In September this year, 748 children were in the care of the county council, compared with 704 in the same month last year and 682 in 2006.

Mr Dixon said that the “significant” increase meant 188 children were placed in outside care in September - in 2007 it was 96 and the previous year 80.

John Gregg, the council officer responsible for vulnerable youngsters, said: “Much of the pressure is linked to purchased care in the form of placements for children and young people.

“A successful campaign to recruit and train foster carers has been running throughout the year and this is having a positive effect, but it takes around nine months to prepare and train carers so increasing the number of carers does take time.”

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