Suffolk: We launch war on waste as councils look at cuts

The Suffolk County Council Building on Russell Road in Ipswich

The Suffolk County Council Building on Russell Road in Ipswich - Credit: Archant

With local authorities facing years of more austerity, we are today asking our readers what you would like to see to reduce spending and keep down your council tax bills.

Which services are vital to your life? Which have to be kept operating to maintain our way of life?

And where is money being wasted in unnecessary bureaucracy and duplication?

Suffolk County Council has already had to make cuts of nearly £100 million over the last three years. As we reported yesterday it is now looking at further cuts of £50 million over the next two years.

District and borough councils are also facing major cuts in their central government grant. By 2016 the total cut in government support to local authorities in Suffolk will total £62 million.

Most councils in Suffolk have Conservative leaders – and are seeing the cut in central government support as providing a platform for reforming the way they operate.

Six of the seven districts and boroughs in the county are now sharing administrations with their neighbours.

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Babergh and Mid Suffolk share a chief executive and administration. Suffolk Coastal and Waveney share a chief and many of their departments. And St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath effectively have a joint administration.

Only Ipswich – the county’s only Labour-controlled borough – has an independent administration, although it does share some departments with other authorities.

Suffolk Coastal council leader Ray Herring said his authority was looking at deepening its relationship with Waveney and with the county council.

He said: “We have to work much more closely together with each other – we are moving more and more towards having a joint administration with Waveney although politically we remain independent.

“And Concertus, the company formed by the county’s property team, will be taking over the management of our property. We have to work more closely together.”

St Edmundsbury council shares West Suffolk House with the county. Its leader John Griffiths said shared services were vital for councils to operate efficiently.

He said: “We effectively have a joint administration with Forest Heath and we have shared buildings in Bury St Edmunds and in Haverhill.

“The changes in spending are a challenge – it is vital that councils look at new ways of operating and try to ensure they operate as efficiently as possible.

“I certainly welcome the involvement of you and your readers in looking at more ways of ensuring there is less waste.”

The reduction in government support for local authorities means an increasing proportion of their income will have to come from council tax, business rates, and specific government grants.

Mr Griffiths said the reduction in government support would give authorities more independence – something he welcomed.

“And we are not only in partnerships with the public sector – we have also linked up with the private sector on successful projects like the Apex in Bury,” he added.

But while financial constraints have spurred authorities to seek more efficient ways of working, there was a warning from the leaders of Babergh and Mid Suffolk that there were serious challenges ahead.

Jennie Jenkins and Derrick Haley issued a statement saying: “Make no mistake: this is the most fundamental cut in the block government grant that any of us have experienced during our time as councillors.”

We want to know how you would make local government more efficient. Write to War on Waste, East Anglian Daily Times, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail using the subject line War on Waste.