Council could go ‘bust’ without cuts, leader warns

David Ellesmere, leader of Ipswich Borough Council, has made stark warnings about the authority's fi

David Ellesmere, leader of Ipswich Borough Council, has made stark warnings about the authority's financial position following the coronavirus crisis. Picture: JAMES AGER - Credit: James Ager

Ipswich Borough Council, like every other council, is facing an unprecedented financial crisis due to the coronavirus. We forecast a deficit of £10million this year due to increased expenditure and loss of income.

So far, the government has only made £1.4m available to cover our losses and has made clear that it will not compensate us for anything like the full amount.

The council has just £3m in usable reserves to help cover the deficit. Put simply, if we don’t make savings now, it will not be long before the council goes bust.

On Tuesday, we will discuss an emergency budget which contains a large number of measures to enable us to cover this deficit over the next four years.

It involves the use of reserves, the expectation that we shall get more money from the government, reducing and reprofiling our capital programme, efficiency savings and a small number of service cuts.

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Even this still leaves us with another £450,000 of savings to find in future years.

One of the cuts proposed is the closure of the TIC, which I know some people are concerned about. We would obviously rather not be proposing this, but it is an expensive service costing £160,000 a year.

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Many of its services can be provided more cheaply at other council buildings, online or via phone. Following the Arras Square works, we believe St Stephen’s will be attractive to an alternative occupier.

Ipswich Borough Council provides many important services such as refuse collection and free brown bins, cleaning streets, managing and building council houses, housing homeless people, our wonderful parks, the Museum and Christchurch Mansion, the Regent and Corn Exchange, sports centres, swimming pools and the free Summer iCard, CCTV cameras and the HEARS community alarm service.

It is to try and protect these services in future that we are having to take these tough decisions now.

I need to be absolutely clear, though - if we don’t receive as much money from the government as anticipated, or if the long-term impact of the virus on the council’s finances is worse than predicted, then we will be forced to bring forward further cuts which will inevitably be more painful than our current proposals.

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