Big Decisions For Suffolk County Council

2 February 2010, 06:00 | Updated: 2 February 2010, 06:04

Big decisions on Suffolk's council tax, landscape and schools will be made today.

A cabinet meeting at Suffolk County Council will take place at Endeavour House in Ipswich today where many controversial issues are on the agenda.

The Cabinet will discuss its response to the National Grid’s consultation programme on four alternative route corridors for a new 400kV overhead line between Bramford and Twinstead in Essex.

Cabinet will form its view on each of the four options and submit a formal response to the consultation to National Grid.

Councillor Paul West, Portfolio Holder for the Greenest County said: “This is a major issue for South Suffolk and the people who live there.  We have been collecting the views of local people and will make sure these views are reflected in our discussion and in any recommendations that we make. However this has been made more difficult by National Grid’s decision not to publish the consultation on the website.”

He added, “One of the questions for Cabinet is whether National Grid has demonstrated conclusively that a new overhead line is the most appropriate means of enhancing the electricity supply network and this is something we will discuss at Cabinet”.

This is a controversial plan in many parts of South Suffolk, with proposals for some routes affecting Constable Country.

Meanwhile the Cabinet plans to recommend its lowest ever council tax increase of just 2.4% today.

Councillor Jane Storey, Suffolk County Council’s portfolio holder for resource management and transformation, said: “We are mindful of the need to keep council tax as low as possible without jeopardizing essential services, which is why we will be discussing an increase of just 2.4%.  This proposed rise equates to an extra 50p a week for households in a Band D council tax property.”

 “Once again, the difficult financial climate in this country means that we need to balance the increase in demand for our services with keeping council tax rises as low as possible.  We will be continuing to invest in vital frontline services so that we can deliver our priorities to improve the lives of Suffolk residents.”

Areas that are being prioritised for extra spending include:

  • £1.5m as a one-off payment for roads maintenance to help deal with the effects of the particularly harsh winter
  • £1.7m to continue the investment in social workers to help support vulnerable children and their families 
  • £1.6m to pay for the additional numbers and more complex placements of young people coming into the care system 
  • £4m to help care for older people who most need specialist support 
  • £1.6m to pay for extra landfill tax

Another important issue to be discussed at today's Council meeting is recommendations for the future of schools in the Sudbury and Great Cornard area.

During the consultation period more than 1370 questionnaires, letters and emails were received and 1230 people attended meetings at schools in the area.  When considering the recommendations for each of the schools Cabinet will use the agreed principles which underpin the School Organisation Review and the views received during public consultation.

County Councillor Graham Newman, Portfolio Holder for Children, Schools and Young People Services said: “In general, there was public support for the options published for consultation.  However, where objections were raised they were carefully considered, before decisions were made on what options to recommend to Cabinet. I would like to thank everyone who got involved with the consultation and reassure them that their views will be taken in account when Cabinet meet to consider the recommendations.  The recommendations contained in the Cabinet paper represent the option which is believed to help young people to achieve the very best they can. Any changes finally approved will be carefully planned to ensure young people’s education is not affected.”
If Cabinet approve the recommendations at its meeting today statutory notices will be published.  From the date of publication, people will have a further six weeks to comment on the approved recommendations before a final decision is made in May 2010.    

The recommendations to be considered by Cabinet propose to extend the age range of primary schools so young people will stay at their local school until the age of 11 before transferring to a secondary school.  The recommendations would see middle schools close in order to achieve a two tier education system in the area.