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By Paul Geater, Local government correspondent
Thursday, December 20, 2012
COUNCILS in this region are to get about 2% less from the government next year – but the news from Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles held few nasty surprises.
As Mr Pickles published his local government settlement, he confirmed that Suffolk County Council will see its grant fall by 2.1%.
That is in line with what had been announced this time last year – and will allow the council to go ahead with its budget plans for 2013/14.
And the statement also gave a clear indication that the budget for the following year, 2014/15, is likely to see a 3% cut.
Suffolk deputy leader Jane Storey, who is responsible for the authority’s finance, said officers were still studying all the details – but there did not appear to be any “nasty shocks” waiting to hit them.
She said: “Mr Pickles seems very keen to come up with ‘helpful suggestions’ to make ourselves more efficient but here in Suffolk we seem to be implementing most of his proposals already.”
Mr Pickles urged councils to share services. “We are already seeing that with Babergh and Mid Suffolk, Waveney and Suffolk Coastal, and St Eds and Forest Heath,” Mrs Storey added.
Labour group leader Sandy Martin was not so happy about the decision. He said: “We knew it was going to be tough so I suppose we should be relieved it is no worse than it is.
“But things really do look very difficult for the next year.”
District and borough councils in Suffolk were facing smaller cuts – Suffolk Coastal and Waveney will see their support cut by 1.8%, and Ipswich will get a 0.9% cut in grant. St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath will face cuts of 0.3 and 0.1%, which Babergh and Mid Suffolk will see grant increases of 0.3% and 0.9%.
Ipswich council’s Labour leader David Ellesmere said a cut of nearly 1% would be difficult for the borough to achieve. “When you have inflation of 3% a year on top of this you don’t have to be genius to realise that services will suffer,” he said.
Next year the districts and boroughs are facing a much more substantial cut in their budgets.
Mr Pickles said: “Councils must keep doing their bit to tackle the inherited budget deficit because they account for a quarter of all public spending and still get through over £114 billion of taxpayers’ money each year.
“Today’s announcement is a fair funding deal that will reward councils ready to strive for their communities and gives them another year to get their house in order.
“Councils that put their thinking caps on now can save precious taxpayer pennies next year by cutting out waste and transforming frontline services that vulnerable people rely on.”
Officials at the county council are still working on the figures to prepare a detailed briefing for councillors.