War on council waste is launched

UNDER-pressure county halls are trying to find millions of pounds worth of savings to keep next year's council tax rises in check - and they are asking for your help to identify waste.

By Graham Dines

UNDER-pressure county halls are trying to find millions of pounds worth of savings to keep next year's council tax rises in check - and they are asking for your help to identify waste.

Suffolk County Council says it needs to find £17m savings before next April to keep the council tax rise at just above inflation, while its counterpart in Essex wants to save £50m over the next four years.

In Suffolk, the Conservative administration blames the Government for putting it in an impossible position. This week, Whitehall gave them an extra 2.9% compared with the previous year's increase of 6.7% and unless savings are made, council tax will spiral out of control.


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Today, the EADT re-launches its War On Waste campaign, and we are inviting you to tell us about examples of money being wasted by our local councils. We will send your letters on to the people in power.

Suffolk county council leader Jeremy Pembroke said: “The process is going to be tough. Difficult choices will have to be made. I would be delighted to hear from the people of Suffolk about what they think we can save.

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“We have identified options, but our budget process is not a one-way conversation. I want to engage the public in a dialogue in which they tell the county council what our priorities should be and where we should make cuts so that we can keep our spending our control.

“We have to save £17m, and this cannot be met from the education budget because that is ring fenced. Therefore, it is the other services such as social care, highways, libraries, fire and emergency, and public protection which have to be pruned.”

Mr Pembroke added: “I am determined to keep next year's council tax rise as low as possible. Pensioners and those on fixed incomes have been clobbered enough over the years. However, the Government is not co-operating which leaves us little option but to consider unpalatable cuts in services.”

Lord Hanningfield, leader of Essex County Council, said: “I said right from the start in my election manifesto that I was looking to save the authority around £50m in efficiency over the next four years and this hasn't changed. It is a matter of simplifying behind the scenes processes because we are an enormous organisation with more than 30,000 employees.

“Because we are a public body we have to be more accountable than the private sector and we will definitely try to change the way we operate in this respect and save money without affecting front line services. On the contrary we want to improve services and are very keen to concentrate on care for children and for the elderly.

“Although ideas from the public are always welcome they do not know all that goes on behind the scenes and so their suggestions may only save a small amount here or there. The real savings will come from simplifying backroom procedures.”

Terry Hunt, EADT editor, said: “We are not saying our local councils face a simple task in finding millions of pounds worth of savings. They need help from the public in identifying example of money being wasted.''

Readers who think they can identify waste - either from the county council or their district authority - can write to the EADT and we will pass them on to the decision-makers at the county council.

Last year, Suffolk's budget was £656m. Of this, £426.3m came from the Government and £230.3m from council tax payers.

If you have any ideas about how our county councils could save money, write to War on Waste, c/o The Editor, EADT, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or email editor@eadt.co.uk

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