Worries over budget proposals

ORGANISATIONS and individuals across the region were today bracing themselves as new chancellor George Osborne prepared to deliver his first budget.

The budget he unveils at lunchtime today is expected to be the toughest the country has faced for many years – and there are predictions that everyone in Britain will feel some pain as a result of it.

Mr Osborne has made no secret of the fact that his budget will be tough, and a few details have been released in advance.

He said at the weekend that there would be no council tax increase next year – which will put additional pressures on authorities which are likely to face a cut in government grant.

Council spending is expected to be at the forefront of government cuts, although today’s announcements are unlikely to go into much detail about which authorities will get what.

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No council leaders are under any illusion about the likely impact of the budget – although they don’t expect to know much more about next year’s spending plans at the end of the day.

Suffolk’s deputy leader Jane Storey was at a meeting with other council leaders and local government secretary Eric Pickles last week.

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“The message was blunt – the money is running out and we will have to make some difficult decisions. The devil will come out in the detail from the budget,” she said.

Ipswich council leader Liz Harsant was at the same meeting. The message she got was equally blunt: “We were told to think of the worst case scenario and double it,” She said.

New Ipswich Conservative MP Ben Gummer said: “Everyone knows that the country’s finances are in a terrible mess.

“If tough decisions aren’t made tomorrow then the people who will suffer most are the vulnerable and those who have lost their jobs as a result of the economic storm that will engulf us if we do not put the country’s finances straight.

“That is the right course for the country.

“My priority is to fight for every penny of funding that is available for our town because Ipswich and Suffolk have always got the rough end of the deal and I am determined that in these very difficult times we get a fair settlement and the investment the town so badly needs.”

David Ellesmere, who leads the Labour group on Ipswich council, said the tough budget was the result of an ideological choice by the new government – it was not necessary to introduce such painful measures.

He said: “Over the last few weeks there have been several pieces of economic data coming about the state of the economy.

“Everyone of those shows that the deficit is lower than had been predicted – it now looks as if it would be �20 bn less than the predictions before the election. And that is thanks to the policies of the last government.

“These cuts that the Tories and Liberals are introducing are not coming out of necessity – they are because they want to attack the public sector.”

Mr Osborne is due to start his budget today. You can take part in our online debate during the speech through our website www.eadt.co.uk

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