Big Decisions For Council

One of our council's will be making big decisions on possible spending cuts today

Suffolk County Council is looking to hand over some services to businesses and the voluntary sector to save money in something called the New Strategic Direction.

Suffolk County Council could be cutting nearly 1500 jobs over the next two years.

It's as they try to save millions in the next four years due to government cutbacks.

After a preliminary meeting in December, Jane Storey from the County Council told Heart even though redundancies are inevitable as they look to make savings, it does not mean that the number of posts going is the same as the number of people losing their jobs: "There may be people who are just moving on, or who are retiring, just decided to give up work or try something else, so the number of posts is not necessarily the equivalent of the number of people that leave the organisation."

She also added that the County Council will be offering support to anyone facing redundancy, "We try to work with people whether they want to re-deploy to other organistations, re-deploy within Suffolk County Council, so re-training and that sort of thing, or whether they want to try and completely different process altogether."

Some of the issues being discussed include:

Council Tax: The plan is to freeze council tax. Norfolk County Council has already said that they will also be keeping council tax rates the same. It means both should now be able to get a share of a £650 million government grant which is being given to councils who are lowering tax or freezing it.

School Patrol Crossings: They will be looking at the future of school patrol crossings and considering a petition which has been handed in over concerns about cuts to the service.

In response to this, County Councillor Guy McGregor who is in charge of roads told Heart, "No decisions have yet been taken. The county council apppreciates the dedication and commitment of all school crossing patrol staff."

There are also proposals to end the 'Healthy Schools' programme, which may result in less schools working towards the healthy schools accreditation, and could even impact on the health of pupils and their capacity to learn and achieve their full potential.

Fire Services: There are proposals to cut 12 fire fighter posts, which would leave the Ipswich aerial appliance to be alternately crewed. This means that it could take longer for an aerial appliance to attend incidents.

Meanwhile, there are proposals to change Felixstowe fire station from a day crewed to an retained fire station. This would result in the loss of 14 fire fighters and it's thought the time taken to respond to some incidents in Felixstowe would increase.  

There are also plans to make Haverhill fire station a 5-day crewed station, meaning it would take longer to respond to incidents at the weekend.

Household Waste Recycling Centres: One proposal being considered is the closure of seven of the council’s 18 Household Waste Recycling Centres and reduced opening hours at the remaining sites. This will contribute to a saving of £2.3 million from the waste services budget.

If the proposal is agreed, the seven sites to close on the 9 May 2011 are: Beccles, Bramford, Brome, Chelmondiston, Ingham, Newmarket and Southwold.

Sites to remain open will be: Bury St Edmunds, Felixstowe, Foxhall, Hadleigh, Haverhill, Ipswich, Leiston, Lowestoft, Mildenhall, Stowmarket and Sudbury.

County Councillor Lisa Chambers, Portfolio Holder for Waste, said: "Working with our contractors, careful consideration has been given to which sites could close and we have been especially mindful to keep a good spread of sites across our rural county, as we know this is important to residents here in Suffolk.

"Our aim is to make sure the vast majority of Suffolk residents can get to a site in around 20 minutes drive time.  We have also looked at factors such as the number of people using each site, recycling rates and the costs of running them.

We remain committed to reducing, reusing and recycling as much waste as possible. We are extremely proud that Suffolk residents have made this county one of the top recycling performers in the country, with over half our household waste recycled. We continue our ambitions to achieve 60% recycling rate by 2015."

The council recognises the need to keep sites open over the Easter weekend (usually one of the busiest) and for the extra bank holiday on 29 April, so any closures would not happen until 9 May.

In response to concerns about an increase in fly tipping, Councillor Chambers says: "Fly tipping is both anti-social and illegal. We’ll be working with our partners in Suffolk’s district and borough councils to prosecute anyone who breaks the law in this way and we will make sure the area around any closed sites is kept free of rubbish."

Others include school buses, youth services, potential library closures and other services.

Protesters are currently outside Suffolk County Council headquarters.

After a previous protest by Unison back in November, Councillor Jeremy Pembroke, Leader from Suffolk County Council said:

"I welcome Unison's views.  We will continue to engage with as many people as possible from across Suffolk throughout the development of the NSD (New Strategic Direction) and during implementation. All of the views we receive will be carefully considered and will help inform decisions made over the coming months and years.

I believe we have a moral duty to protect services for the people of Suffolk especially the most vulnerable in our community.

I will be doing everything I can to ensure that happens."

Norfolk County Council is also having to make savings of £155 million over the next 3 years due to government cutbacks and it is estimated up to 3000 posts could go by 2014. They had a meeting to discuss possible cuts earlier in the week.