Earlier this week, the Conservative administration at Suffolk County Council unveiled their budget for the next financial year, with brutal, £65 million cuts on the way. Coupled with a council tax hike of 5%, people really will be paying more, and getting far less.

One of the headline figures is the £11 million that will be ‘saved’ by making redundancies. We don’t yet know how many jobs will be lost, but it will likely be hundreds. This won’t just come as terrible news for council workers who now have the threat of redundancy hanging over them, but it will be devastating for residents who rely on their services as well.

Funding for arts and culture has been removed entirely, despite Suffolk’s exceptional offering on this front. The arts aren’t just a nice thing to have. They drive economic growth, with over £272 million generated for our region, support almost 7,000 jobs, and engage with around 100,000 children and vulnerable people through community work.

Cuts will be made to Suffolk Fire and Rescue, Suffolk Trading Standards and a whole host of other areas too.

Also buried in the proposals is a £700,000 cut to what remains of Suffolk’s children’s centres, otherwise known as family hubs, or Sure Start centres.

Families will remember that the Conservatives have taken an axe to the service on two previous occasions in 2015 and again during the pandemic in 2020. This is despite them pledging that ‘Sure Start [was] safe with the Conservatives’ in a now infamous 2010 pre-election stunt which included the former MP for Ipswich, Ben Gummer, and two serving county councillors who now look to be proposing even deeper cuts.

The result is, out of Suffolk’s 47 children’s centres that were open when that promise was made, only a third remain open full time. A £700,000 funding cut will see a further chunk taken out of the service and, given past experience, it is unlikely that ‘redesign’ is anything other than a creative way of saying ‘closures’.

To a degree, I have some sympathy with the county Conservatives who have been dealt a poor hand by their friends in Westminster. Local government has suffered badly over the past 14 years, first with an unrelenting programme of austerity, followed by a reckless gamble with the economy which has seen councils picking up the pieces, along with the rest of us.

Yes, the pandemic would have been challenging in any era, but council finances and our public services had already been dramatically weakened, while the ‘recovery packages’ offered by the Government were both short-term and inadequate. We are now seeing the impact here in Suffolk, and across the country.

I believe that some of the cuts the Conservatives at Suffolk County Council are making are hugely damaging. The loss of funding to the arts is cultural, educational and economic vandalism, while a third round of cuts to the county’s children’s centres will leave little left of a service that has been a lifeline to so many families.

However, Suffolk’s Conservative MPs should face scrutiny too. After all, they are part of a Government who halved funding to our local councils and cheered on Liz Truss’ budget which had disastrous consequences. They are just as culpable for your public services disappearing while your taxes are bumped up.

This week, Ipswich Labour lost someone very special, our friend and colleague, councillor Sophie Connelly.

Sophie was not only compassionate, generous and kind, she was also such great fun, a top notch host and always, always laughing.

We are all going to miss her terribly, and our thoughts are with her loving family.

Jack Abbott is Labour prospective parliamentary candidate for Ipswich